Baby brain exists – but it’s NOT what you think

New research has uncovered some fascinating insights on what's really going on in your brain when you're pregnant....

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Pregnancy affects our brain. That really is true – but, say scientists, it doesn’t affect our grey matter like we’ve always thought it did.

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We’ve been told for years that being pregnant makes us forgetful or foggy-brained – although there’s never been any real evidence to prove that.

But actually, according to a new study carried, out by Dutch researchers at Leiden University, pregnancy causes long-term structural changes to the brain that actually make us kinder and more able to imagine how other people feel.

How lovely! And, if you think about it, it makes perfect sense: nature is priming us mums-to-be for the baby-caring to come by fine-tuning our social processes to be more in tune with the wants of others (especially, obviously, a new little one).

So, baby brain DOES exist ? though in a much nicer way that we ever suspected!

Ooooh that’s interesting. What else does the study say?

OK, so the study reveals that, while we don’t actually lose brain cells when pregnant, our brain does a bit of rearranging to make sure the regions that deal with caring and nurturing are strengthened.

And the results do kind of feel right, don’t they?

As Dr Kirstie Whitaker, an expert in neuro-imaging from Cambridge University says: “Being a new mum is hard and you have to adjust an awful lot. Your brain is going to be able to respond to that change and it is going to make it so that you can take care of this newborn bundle of joy.”

Wow, our bodies are pretty amazing… ?

Fascinating stuff – and very different from what we’ve thought before.

So why am I so forgetful, now I’m pregnant, then? 

While the study does say we don’t lose grey matter and our brains don’t shrink, plenty of mums and mums-to-be on our social media pages tell us they feel as though their mental capacities aren’t quite what they had been before they were pregnant.

“I regularly put the cereal in the fridge and the milk in the cupboard!” says Gemma P. While Claire D remembers “forgetting the names for simple things like spoons!”

And perhaps the best admission we’ve heard is Rachael B’s: “I went to work in odd shoes – different heel height and everything – and didn’t notice until gone midday!”

So what’s going on?

It’s thought that this absent-mindedness that many of us experience is probably triggered by a combination of pregnancy-related factors – including tiredness, hormone fluctuations and simply having lots of other baby-related thoughts and worries whizzing around in our brain, distracting us.

But, just to be clear, there’s NO evidence to suggest that pregnancy causes us to lose any of our memory or verbal skills. However forgetful you’re feeling, take heart from Dr Elseline Hoekzema, co-author of the Leiden University study, who says, “It’s important to stress that our findings do not suggest any link to changes in general cognitive abilities or intelligence.” Hurrah!

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