There is an old-wives tale floating out there that pregnancy women lose their ability to think, learn and remember things.  Do pregnant women have memory problems?

An Australian research team decided to study pregnant women to determine if the “baby brain” theory, that a woman’s ability to think was impaired when they got pregnant. The Australian National University team conducted a study on the health and mental functions of women before and during pregnancy, and into the early stages of motherhood. The testing was part of a 20-year research project called “Path Through Life,” tracking the mental health of a random sampling of 7,500 Australians.

The women were tested for memory and cognitive speed three times over the course of eight years (before, during and after). “We didn’t find any difference between the women before and after pregnancy, or before and after motherhood, and there were no differences between the non-mothers and the mothers, and the pregnant women,” lead researcher Helen Christensen said.

The findings were unique, according to Christensen, because the women were not told they were in a pregnancy study when they signed up. “You don’t have necessarily the biases that you might have if you are just doing a study where you recruit women to a pregnancy study,” Christensen said. “When they’re doing the cognitive test they don’t know that it’s out to prove that they’ve lost their marbles or otherwise.”

The study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, reported that pregnant women were frequently warned about the possibility of short-term memory problems, a condition guidebooks described as “baby brain” or “placenta brain.”

Although the study did find some limited impact on cognitive speed late in the pregnancies, results concluded that carrying a baby had “pretty much no permanent effects” on a woman’s mental function.

“I think that people have the tendency to blame the fact that they’re pregnant on normal lapses of memory which happen all the time to us anyway,” she said. If there are any impairments “may reflect emotional or other unknown factors.”

 Pregnancy is a stressful time for any woman, even if she is excited about a new arrival. Stress is a known problem to block memory in anyone, whether they are pregnant or not. This test shows that pregnancy alone is not a factor in memory – but there can be other factors that can cause a problem with the ability to memorize that have nothing to do with hormone changes.




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