Forget Me Not

Forget Me Not Why having a baby really does make women more forgetful By: Lyndsay Moss WOMEN have long suspected that being pregnant has an effect on their memory – now research has confirmed expecting a baby can make you more forgetful. The so-called “baby brain” effect can have an impact on women’s ability to […]

Forget Me Not

Why having a baby really does make women more forgetful

By: Lyndsay Moss

WOMEN have long suspected that being pregnant has an effect on their memory – now research has confirmed expecting a baby can make you more forgetful.

The so-called “baby brain” effect can have an impact on women’s ability to remember new information during pregnancy and for many months after birth, researchers in Australia have found.

Hormonal changes and sleep deprivation have been blamed for the condition, which is believed to affect up to 80 per cent of women.

Some studies have also suggested a woman’s brain may change size during pregnancy.

For the latest investigation, the researchers carried out a review of pregnancy studies conducted over the past 30 years.

Forget Me Not These showed that pregnant women had “modest deficits” in memory, especially when information was new or presented in a challenging way.

Dr Julie Henry, a psychology researcher at the University of New South Wales, said: “The memory deficits many women experience during and after pregnancy are pretty much like the modest deficits you’d find when comparing healthy 20-year-olds with healthy 60-year- olds.”

Dr Henry and co-investigator Professor Peter Rendell, of the Australian Catholic University, compared the memory performances of more than 1,000 pregnant women, mothers and healthy non-pregnant females involved in 14 studies around the world.

They found that pregnant women were significantly impaired on some, but not all, measures of memory.

They experienced most difficulty with memory tasks that relied on “executive cognitive control” – those involving novelty or significant effort.

“Regular, well-practised memory tasks – such as remembering phone numbers of friends and family members – are unlikely to be affected,” Prof Rendell said.

“It’s a different story, though, when you have to remember new phone numbers or people’s names, or hold in mind several pieces of information, such as when multi-tasking.”

The work, published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, is one of the first to confirm the suspicion from endless subjective reports that “baby brain” is a real phenomenon.

The results indicate that the impairment is still evident a year after childbirth, but no studies have yet investigated beyond this period.

Dr Henry said scientists still did not understand why a woman’s memory should be impaired at such an important time, but they suspected lifestyle factors played a role.

Other experts have suggested forgetfulness may stem from a feeling of being overwhelmed by the changes having a baby brings.

“In pregnancy, your normal routines are disrupted and you can suffer sleep deprivation after the birth,” Dr Henry said.

“We know from other research that either of those can affect cognitive performance.”


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