You can’t remember where you put your car keys or the name of the woman you just bumped into at the shops - and you forgot to send that work document that’s only a week overdue...
Sound familiar? Admit this as a pregnant woman you’d probably be swiftly diagnosed as having ‘baby brain.’
But the long-held theory that pregnancy addles women’s brains has now been branded a myth by a major study.
Research carried out by Professor Helen Christensen at the Australian National University in Canberra* tracked more than 2,000 women over ten years, testing their brainpower at different stages, and found there was no difference in women’s cognitive abilities before and during pregnancy.
It concluded that any absentmindedness is more likely to be because women’s attention understandably shifts to the baby and approaching birth. And some scientists think pregnancy and motherhood may actually improve women’s brainpower.
Christensen thinks part of the reason the ‘preg head’ myth continues is that pregnancy manuals tell women that they are likely to suffer from memory loss or have concentration problems and so they and their partners are “primed” to blame any slight memory lapse on pregnancy.
But a 2002 study by Angela Oatridge, of Hammersmith hospital in London, looked at brain scans of women before and after pregnancy and found a decline in size. According to her research reduction in brain size was reversed by six months after delivery.
The Royal College of Midwives has welcomed this latest study. Its general secretary, Cathy Warwick, said: “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.”
How to avoid tiredness:
- During pregnancy acknowledge your changing body and the added strain it’s under; you won’t be able to rush around as much as before.
- Take out ten minutes, sit and get your feet up when you’re feeling tired.
- Eat small amounts regularly so your blood sugar doesn’t dip.
- Take a daytime nap if possible – power naps can be hugely restorative.
- Once the baby comes try to sleep when the baby sleeps during the day to cope with the night time waking.
- Ask for help from friends and family so you can grab some time to relax, knowing the baby is safe and won’t disturb you.
* The Personality and Total Health (PATH) Through Life Project started in 1999. Women were tested at four year intervals and during the eight years of the study they looked at the 20 – 24 year old women who became pregnant for the first time.
Overall no significant differences were found between the mothers, pregnant women and those who weren’t. The only difference noted was that late pregnancy was associated with poorer performance in the mental speed tests.