“Mommy Brain” is the term given to a phenomenon experienced by mothers. It is characterized by forgetfulness, difficulty focusing, and being easily distracted. Some women joke that they lose a few IQ points with each baby they give birth to. But is mom brain a real thing?
What Moms Think
No one can deny that the sleep deprivation and the hormonal swings that occur during the early months of motherhood affect a woman’s concentration and memory. Moms will tell you emphatically that mommy brain is really a thing.
“Mom brain is 100% a real thing! I thought pregnancy brain was bad, but after having two kids, I often wonder if someone hijacked a few brain cells and replaced them with apple sauce,” Amber Jaye of the Robinson Way Blog tells Parentology. Amber shared these examples of her mommy brain.
- “I flooded the house because I left the sink on in the laundry room. I heard the noise but assumed it was my kid’s sound machine. I got off the couch and stepped into ankle-deep water.”
- “Once I found the missing pita chips and hummus I was looking for in the oven.”
- “Another time, I left my house without shoes on. Only when I got to the store did I realize this.”
“Mommy brain absolutely is real,” concurs Samantha Radford, of Evidence-Based Mommy. Citing a study in the American Journal of Neuroradiology, Radford tells Parentology, “Women lose brain volume during pregnancy. Then the brain is reorganized during motherhood. The areas that help with care-taking and attachment grow within the first few months after birth.”
Radford, who has her Ph.D. in Chemistry, struggled with mom brain herself. “I taught chemistry at the college level for eight years, and I would often forget words and simple concepts when I was in office hours with students. I would tell them, ‘I know this, my brain just isn’t working right now.'”
Surprising New Research
Radford and other mothers might be surprised at the results of a recent study conducted at Purdue University that looked objectively at how long the effects last. They compared the reaction times of 60 mothers who were at least one year postpartum, to 70 women who had not given birth or ever been pregnant. 4
The results? Moms scored as well or better than the non-mothers. The moms performed equally as well when tested for attention capacity.
The gray matter of the brain includes areas that are involved in muscle control, sight, hearing, emotions, speech, decision making, self-control, and memory. A study just published in Cortex found an increase in the gray matter of the brains of women 4-6 weeks after they gave birth compared to their brains 1-2 days postpartum.
“From studies that have been observed, the results are very subjective, and indeed a review of multiple studies found that self-reported changes in memory were reported in the third trimester and first three months postpartum; in addition, mood and lifestyle quality was reportedly lower. There is no indication of the mechanisms behind this. Frequently those that notice the changes will be those that are very close to the Mother,” according to Dr. Tracey Evans, a scientific writer for Fitness Savvy and medical researcher with a Ph.D. in Neuroscience, MSc in Molecular Neuroscience and BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Sciences.
So is it real? Regardless of what the research says, many moms attribute their forgetfulness to mommy brain. That’s their story, and they are sticking to it.
Mom Brain – Related Stories
Is Mom Brain a Real Thing? — Sources
Amber Jaye – Robinson Way Blog
Samantha Radford – Evidence-Based Mommy
Springer Link – Assessment of Attention in Biological Mothers using the Attention Network Test
Science Direct – From baby brain to mommy brain: Widespread gray matter gain after giving birth
Dr. Tracey Evans – Scientific Writer for Fitness Savvy