Pregnant women who suffer lapses in memory or concentration may no longer be able to blame it on “the bump”. The idea that bearing children affects one’s brain power — the “baby brain” — is a myth, researchers say.
Their study found no difference in how pregnant women or new mothers scored on tests of thinking speed and memory compared with those who were childless. Writing in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the authors said that pregnant women should be encouraged to stop attributing lapses in memory or logical thinking to their growing baby.
The findings contradict previous studies that claimed that women’s brains decline in size by up to 4 per cent while they are pregnant, potentially leading to worse performance on tests of memory and verbal skills.
Helen Christensen, of the Australian National University in Canberra, author of the latest study, said that the effect was “a myth”. Professor Christensen’s team recruited 1,241 women aged 20-24 in 1999 and 2003 and asked them to perform a series of tasks. The women were followed up at four-year intervals and asked to perform the same cognitive tests. A total of 77 women were pregnant at the follow-up assessments, 188 had become mothers and 542 remained childless.