“Baby brain” is real and it helps new moms

By Shayna Brouker • Published: March 2nd, 2017
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Forgetfulness, mood swings and foggy thinking. Moms call it “baby brain” — and a new study shows it may be a real thing.

To gauge the effects of pregnancy and motherhood on the brain, researchers from the Autonomous University of Barcelona and Leiden University in the Netherlands studied the brain structures of 25 women. What they found was somewhat surprising.

For up to two years after giving birth, moms showed significant reductions of gray matter in areas associated with social interactions, according to findings published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. The researchers believe these changes happen to help new moms adapt to motherhood by picking up on their child’s needs, being more alert to social threats and bonding with their little ones. These same areas lit up when moms were shown pictures of their babies, but not when they were shown pictures of other children.

Though the idea of changes in their brains may sound alarming, the moms were assured they were not actually losing their minds. In fact, it could be a function called “synaptic pruning,” in which weak synapses are removed to make way for more efficient and specialized neural networks.

Another study from Michigan found that women in the third trimester of their pregnancy experience forgetfulness 15 percent more than the average person, due in part to sleeplessness, iron deficiency and multitasking.

To combat baby brain, new mothers are advised to write everything down and set reminders on their phone. Technology can help you keep everything straight while you’re focused on caring for your baby.