Placenta brain: just another myth
A study by the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University has found no evidence that pregnancy or motherhood is responsible for the memory lapses suggested in previous studies and known as ‘baby brain' or ‘placenta brain'.
The study, reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry, recruited 1,241 women aged between 20 and 24 to assess their cognitive functioning. Four areas of cognition were assessed: cognitive speed, working memory, immediate recall and delayed recall. The participants were followed up - given the same cognitive tests - at four-year intervals in 2003 and 2007.
No significant differences in cognitive change were found between those who were pregnant during the assessments and those who were not. There were also no significant differences between those who had become mothers and those who had not.
The researchers concluded that neither pregnancy nor motherhood had the detrimental effect on women's cognitive capacity assumed in popular belief and suggested in previous studies.
They suggest that previous studies may be biased, either because they recruited women who were already anxious about the effect of pregnancy on their memory or who, because of their condition, were depressed or sleep-deprived.
Prof Helen Christensen, who led the study, added that mothers were primed to look out for signs of ‘baby brain'. Pregnancy manuals told women that they were likely to experience memory and concentration problems.
Obstetricians, family doctors and midwives might use the findings of the study to promote the fact that ‘placenta brain' was not inevitable, she said.
Published: 15 Feb 2010