What is baby brain?
Most people will have heard the term ‘baby brain’ or ‘pregnancy brain’ however not everyone knows exactly what it is. Many new mums find themselves forgetting things they normally wouldn’t or confusing simple things such as putting the cereal box in the fridge. Many mums put this down to a lack of sleep, which is almost definitely a contributing factor however, ‘baby brain’ has been scientifically proven to exist.
A large scale Australian study compared hundreds of pregnant and non-pregnant women on various cognitive tasks. They found that although pregnant women still performed well within a normal range, they performed worse than their non-pregnant counter-parts on tasks that were measuring attention, decision-making, planning, and memory.
So, this study proves that pregnant women and new mums’ memories and cognitive skills suffer, however this could just be down to a serious lack of sleep, right?
Why do new mums get baby brain?
Wrong! Another study found that there is a reduction in grey matter in the brains of pregnant women. So, the brain is actually changing during pregnancy, and this is what is causing the ‘baby brain’ phenomenon.
This reduction in grey matter was found to occur in regions known to be involved in processing social information, such as decoding infant facial expressions and establishing healthy bonding between mum and baby.
What this means is that the brain is shifting and changing to accommodate new skills. Your brain is developing so that it can instantly recognise what your little one needs. However, there is only so much that the brain can do, and therefore things that the brain deems unnecessary at the time fall to the side, such as the ability to make decisions or plan ahead.
The brain is re-prioritising in order to put mum and baby first.
How might Baby Brain affect mum?
The reality of living with ‘baby brain’ can be incredibly frustrating. Suddenly, and without much warning, you lose skills that you perhaps had taken for granted. All of a sudden you find yourself unable to decide where you want to go for dinner or unable to find your keys. This may be very different from who you were and how you functioned pre-pregnancy.
The difference in cognitive ability can be extremely debilitating for some ladies who may go from being able to juggle multiple roles at work to putting their phone in the washing machine. It may feel like you are going crazy, like you are losing your marbles, but it is important to remember that you are not alone, and that your brain is undergoing important renovations in the lead up to your baby arriving.
Various studies have shown that about 80% of new mums report lapses in attention and memory. So if you are experiencing the effects of baby brain, take comfort in the fact that you are not alone.
Embrace Baby brain
If this has shown you anything, please let it be that experiencing ‘baby brain’ does not mean that your brain functioning is worse than normal, it is just different. Your brain is helping you to prepare for motherhood by developing new skills to strengthen the bond between you and your child.
Although it may be frustrating to lose some of the skills that you might have depended upon, made your living with, or taken for granted, you are gaining the ability to distinguish between your child’s different cries, to know which one means hunger and which one means smelly nappy. You are developing the instincts and bond that will carry you and your baby through their first few years, and set the foundation for many more years to come.
Embrace the baby brain!
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