Pregnancy Does Not Diminish Brainpower
Australian researchers have published evidence that so-called “baby brain” does not exist. Professor Helen Christensen and colleagues at the Australian National University examined the theory.
They recruited 1,241 women aged 20 to 24 years, and tested their cognitive speed, working memory, and immediate and delayed recall. The women were retested after four years and again after eight years. At followups, 76 women were pregnant. A further 188 became pregnant between testing sessions.
No significant differences were seen in their cognitive abilities. The experts believe that neither pregnancy nor motherhood have a detrimental effect on women’s cognitive capacity.
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 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. However, this shift in attentional focus is adaptive, and certainly cannot be labeled a ‘cognitive deficit.'”
Details of the study are published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. The team writes, “Not so long ago, pregnancy was ‘confinement’ and motherhood meant the end of career aspirations. 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 new baby.”
The authors also call on doctors and midwives to put an end to this belief. However, the results of this study directly contradict previous findings which have shown that pregnant women perform worse than nonpregnant women on memory and other cognitive tests. Professor Christensen suggests that the earlier studies were biased because the participants were not tested prior to pregnancy.