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Baby Brain – Real or Not?

Baby Brain – Real or Not?

Baby brain. Does it exist or not? Brie Bella, at 32 weeks pregnant with her baby girl, seems to think so:

In fact, ask any pregnant woman or new mum whether she’s experienced baby brain and you’ll probably get a resounding ‘yes’ (after she’s had time to think about it).

However, ask an expert and it seems no one agrees.

Dr Laura Glynn argues that reproductive hormones cause changes in the brain so that mums-to-be and new mums can cope with the demands of a baby. However, whilst these changes create a more attuned and sensitive mother, they may bring unwanted ‘brain fog’ when remembering things like lost keys.

Worrying more often about ‘uncontrollables’, such as whether your baby is healthy, happy, sleeping or eating well, has been shown to be related to chemical brain changes. Analysis of the brain during pregnancy has demonstrated that the amygdala region of the brain grows during pregnancy, making a mum more sensitive and empathic to baby’s needs. This might explain why you become less concerned about other things and more prone to memory lapses.

However, other trials have shown, pretty conclusively, that baby brain really doesn’t exist. In the US 21 mothers were put through a series of mental tests a few weeks before baby was born and again three months after, alongside a group of 21 women who had never had children. Comprehensively, the results showed; “no differences between controls and pregnant/postpartum women on neuropsychological measures at any time points”. However the mums-to-be and new mums reported that they ‘felt’ they had done worse.

So Is Baby Brain Self-inflicted?
Professor Larson, who led the study, believes that women are so tuned in to the belief that baby brain exists that this could make them more sensitive to acknowledging lapses in memory. In fact, he believes that women might be psychologically damaging themselves by perpetuating the idea that they are lower functioning as a result of having a baby.

Then again at the end of last year, 2016, we were told that having a baby later in life could actually make you smarter. Tests carried out on 830 middle aged women showed that having a baby after 35 might; “offer protection against cognitive decline”.

So What To Believe?
Well, there’s plenty of medical evidence to prove that pregnancy does cause chemical changes in the brain. Whether this is a benefit to the baby but harmful to the mother is questionable. Other factors (lack of sleep, for instance) cause all kinds of havoc for both parents and non-parents. But at the moment, we still can’t say for sure whether baby brain exists.

It seems then that maybe us mums should go more easy on ourselves, concentrate on baby and invest in a Bluetooth finder for our keys!

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