A recent study has shown that pregnancy messes up the mind of a young mum. Till now there wasn't enough information to confirm whether this phenomenin -- often referred to as "baby brain" -- was real, but now there's an answer.
Baby brain, which is sometimes called "mumnesia" often manifests itself in expecting women as a little bit of absentmindedness every day. They might forget where they have put something or lose track what they're doing in the middle of the task or forget what they are talking about in the middle of the conversation.
According to a new meta-analysis conducted by researchers at the Deakin University, cognitive deficiencies during pregnancy are real and are actually measurable. Their impact, however, is likely noticed only by the pregnant woman herself and those who are closest to her.
Previous studies couldn't confirm the phenomenon because they gave inconsistent results. In 2007, a meta-analysis found that the effect was inconsistent across different areas of memory.
In the new meta-analysis of 20 studies, the researchers updated the body of research regarding the phenomenon by including a number of studies conducted and also by examining the cognitive effects on areas other than memory.
The studies analysed a total of 1,230 women -- 709 pregnant women and the remaining 521 non-pregnant in control groups. They also included at least one standard objective measure of cognitive function.
Researchers found that the cognitive function was poorer in pregnant women compared to non-pregnant women.
"General cognitive functioning, memory, and executive functioning were significantly reduced during the third trimester of pregnancy (compared with control women), but not during the first two trimesters," the authors wrote in their paper.
"Longitudinal studies found declines between the first and second trimesters in general cognitive functioning and memory, but not between the second and third trimesters," they added.
They found a decline in cognitive function during the first trimester, and also a physical reduction in grey matter during pregnancy.
"It looks like the reason pregnant women have grey matter reduction is because they're probably recruiting those areas to more important areas associated with the business of child-rearing -- so things like bonding, and social cognition," researcher Linda Byrne told the ABC.
"These small reductions in performance across their pregnancy will be noticeable to the pregnant women themselves and perhaps by those close to them, manifesting mainly as minor memory lapses (eg, forgetting or failing to book medical appointments)," said senior researcher Melissa Hayden. Further research is needed to find out other impacts of this phenomenon on pregnant women.
The research was published in the Medical Journal of Australia.