Is Brain Lapse During Pregnancy A
Expectant mums need to stop blaming their bump for memory lapses,
say experts who want to dispel the "baby brain" myth.
Neither pregnancy nor motherhood addle a woman's brain, say the
researchers based on their study of 1,241 women both before and
after having babies.
The Australian researchers say we have been misled by a fallacy.
Any absentmindedness might be adaptive, shifting attention to
the baby, the British Journal of Psychiatry says.
Lead researcher Professor Christensen said: "Part of the
problem is that pregnancy manuals tell women they are likely to
experience memory and concentration problems - so women and their
partners are primed to attribute any memory lapse to the 'hard
to miss' physical sign of pregnancy.
"Pregnant women may also shift their focus away from work
issues to help them prepare for the birth of their new baby, while
new mothers selectively attend to their baby."
But she said this shift should not be labelled a "cognitive
Her team from The Australian National University followed up
the large group of women at four-year intervals using memory tests.
During the course of the study more than half of the women fell
pregnant, but this did not appear to have any impact on memory.
The test scores remained unchanged before and after pregnancy
and did not differ greatly between the group of women who became
mums and the group of those who did not.
Professor Christensen and her team said: "Not so long ago,
pregnancy was 'confinement' and motherhood meant the end of career
"Our results challenge the view that mothers are anything
other than the intellectual peers of their contemporaries.
"Women and their partners need to be less automatic in their
willingness to attribute common memory lapses to a growing or
"And obstetricians, family doctors and midwives may need
to use the findings from this study to promote the fact that 'placenta
brain' is not inevitable."
Cathy Warwick of the Royal College of Midwives said: "It
is about time that some research lays to rest this notion of pregnant
women and the 'baby brain' myth.
"The physical and emotional stresses on a woman's body from
pregnancy can make women feel more tired than usual.
"As we all know tiredness - for men as well as women - can
make us lose concentration and cause us to function less effectively.
"This is why midwives encourage pregnant women to take appropriate
rest breaks, at home and at work. Many pregnant women will need
this rest, and all of them deserve it."
February 5, 2010