Australian researchers revealed that women experience a decline in cognitive functions during their pregnancy, adding scientific weight to the phenomenon of having “baby brain”. These problems often range from reading difficulties, and forgetfulness, to confusion and problems focusing.
Women who experience “baby brain” during pregnancy were reported to struggle with expressing themselves verbally, forget appointments, or being unable to work due to these issues. According to an older study, 50 to 80 percent of women confirmed they experienced having “baby brain” during their pregnancy. Other studies, however, dismissed the phenomenon as nothing more than a myth, and the cognitive decline occurs due to increased fatigue.
Researchers from the Deakin University, in Australia, focused on these cognitive mishaps during pregnancy and revealed that they can, in fact, be measured. The discovery was made possible thanks to a meta-analysis of 20 studies which involved 1,230 women, 709 of them being pregnant while 521 were there for comparison purposes. These studies looked at general cognitive functions, including memory, attention, processing speed, verbal abilities, and executive functioning. The latter involves the ability to plan, solve problems, and maintain a coherent train of thought.
Researchers revealed that pregnant women had poorer cognitive function than those who weren’t pregnant. This decline was especially common during the third semester of pregnancy.
“General cognitive functioning, memory, and executive functioning were significantly reduced during the third trimester of pregnancy, but not during the first two trimesters,” the authors wrote in their paper, published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
As for the reason behind having “baby brain”, the researchers claim that pregnant women may allocate certain resources to areas associated with child rearing.
Although there is a noticeable reduction in performance, the paper states that pregnant women still remained within a normal and functional range. Further study is still needed to explore the ways in which cognitive decline during pregnancy impacts a woman’s day to day life.
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