Baby brain, the mental fog many mums claim to experience when they are expecting, is a very real phenomenon and now scientists believe it gets worse with each pregnancy.
Experts at Nature Neuroscience found that a pregnant woman’s brain changes during pregnancy and this cognitive cloud lasts for at least two years. Yikes!
Baby brain gets worse with each pregnancy and it lasts for two years
In the experiment, scientists scanned the brains of 25 women who had never had children, then before they became pregnant and again three weeks to a few months before they gave birth. They also scanned first-time fathers and women without children.
Two years later, 11 of the 25 mums returned for an MRI scan – these mums had not become pregnant again in that time.
Scientists found that grey matter, or the part of the brain associated with memory, shrinks and loses volume during pregnancy – but it was not affected in the other groups.
Experts believe the reason for these cognitive changes during pregnancy is to help new mums adjust to the role of motherhood and better identify and respond to their baby’s needs.
The study also found that women with the greatest reductions in grey matter bonded more strongly with their babies.
“We certainly don’t want to put a message out there along the lines of ‘pregnancy makes you lose your brain’,” said the study’s lead author Elseline Hoekzema.
“Grey matter volume loss can also represent a beneficial process of maturation or specialisation.”
Baby brain gets worse with each pregnancy
Meanwhile, another study asked 254 women to take part in a verbal recall memory performance four times during pregnancy and three times postpartum.
Experts found that the performance of women who had previously given birth was poorer than those who had not. This may because a mum who is expecting a second baby experiences changes to her brain to help her divide attention among her offspring.
“These data raise the important question of whether or not these cumulative changes are very long-lasting or even permanent,” read the study notes.
“Animal models have demonstrated that the effects of reproduction and mothering on cognitive function and brain structure are additive and persist throughout the life span…
“Such skills as attention to infant cues, the ability to multitask (or divide attention), and the ability to detect threat might be enhanced by pregnancy and child-rearing.”
So, the next time you forget something, don’t beat yourself up. It’s not your fault, it’s science.
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