One of the benefits of being pregnant and subsequently a new mum is getting to blame oopses on “pregnancy brain” and “mom brain.” But is there any truth to this long-held belief that pregnant women and new mothers are more forgetful and less able to focus than they were when they were non-mothers?
It isn’t hard to imagine that there would be some truth behind these perceptions. When you’re pregnant your body is literally building a human – that requires a lot of energy! Similarly, being a new mother comes with high levels of anxiety and sleep deprivation that can easily impact attention and memory processes in the brain. Studies show that, indeed, “mom brain” is a real thing.
“During pregnancy our bodies are literally diverting blood from our brains to our developing babies and then, after birth, our brains are overstimulated with caring for this new life,” says Sarah Baum, LMFT, founder of Sarah Baum Therapy. “‘Mom brain is the brain fog that occurs shortly after having our children and sometimes even during pregnancy. This is the brain fog that causes you to walk in a room and say ‘why am I here?’ One of the reasons we get ‘mom brain,’ is because we’re focused on so many things at once that it becomes almost impossible to focus on the one task at hand.”
Another reason for “mom brain” is the learning curve that we jump into with having a child. “They’re developing and changing so much that our parenting has to develop and change as well,” says Baum. “Our brain energy goes to that task rather than to our short-term memory. Anxiety can also look like ‘mom brain’ as new mums become overwhelmed with all the tasks at hand.” A common example of mum brain would be feeling so exhausted that you don’t know what to do or can’t pinpoint what needs to be done. “My best personal example is and has always been the question of ‘what am I doing right now?’ – walking into a room and not knowing why I am there,” says Baum.
There is some new, comfronting research, however – “mom brain” doesn’t seem to last. In fact, in a new study that compared the reaction times among 60 mothers, all of whom were at least one year postnatal, and 70 non-mothers showed that mothers performed equally as well, or better, compared with women who had never been pregnant or had children.
But if you still want to use “mom brain” as an excuse for mistakes from time to time, we’re there right behind you…