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Science and stories prove “baby brain” is real

Guess what, ladies — research is proving what we already knew: That pregnancy turns your brain to mush. Makes me feel better about the time I was 11 weeks pregnant with my second daughter and left the keys in my car’s ignition all day while I was at work. The car was on, by the way.
According to a study recently published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, a woman’s memory can be impaired for at least a year after giving birth. (That’s a lot of wasted auto fuel, in my case!) The studies compared memory in 412 expectant women and 272 new mothers with 386 healthy non-pregnant women. The expectant moms had significant difficulty with memory issues, specifically for things that required extra effort, like learning new phone numbers or remembering doctor’s appointments. The researchers likened the memory deficits to those found in healthy 60-year-olds.
Why this happens still has researchers stumped. “That’s the million-dollar question,” said Julie Henry, a psychology researcher at the University of New South Wales. “It’s been argued there might be biological mechanisms such as hormonal change and our suspicion is that lifestyle factors are likely to be very relevant. There’s likely to also be increased difficulty with sleeping that can influence cognitive performance, including memory. It could be all these things interacting.”

While the docs try to figure it out, we’ll take a look at some other “baby brain” stories. That way, the next time our pregnant or new-mommy slip-ups occur, we won’t feel so bad…

A little bit early – by, like, seven days!

When I was about 13 weeks pregnant with Nia (now 22 months), I showed up for my six-month dental checkup right on time. The problem? I was a week early. Thankfully, the dentist took pity on me and saw me anyway. But for my typically organized (dare-I-say anal?) self, the schedule faux pas was completely out of character.
– Robyn T., freelance writer/editor and mother of two

Quietly out of character

I was working for the international marketing division of our company when I was pregnant with Susan. I suffered severe morning sickness for months. Our associates from Scotland were visiting. For many, it was their first trip to the U.S. They were anxious to witness first-hand how vocal American businesswomen are vs. our European counterparts. Their director, Alastair, had visited many times before and knew me quite well, so he had prepared his coworkers for my “ambitious” behavior in meetings. (I was prone to strong opinions and not afraid to express them.) Apparently – and I have no recall of this whatsoever – some very pointed, controversial issues were directed to me. All eagerly awaited my heated response only to find me staring blankly back at them. I offered no reaction, no response, no discussion of any kind … it was completely out of character for me. Just days later, my boss and the HR director suggested I look into FMLA options.
– Mary F., mom of Susan (age 10) and Isabelle (age 4-1/2); former international marketing manager


My most vivid memory was the first time I ventured out about 10 days after having Austin. My big destination? Del Taco! I pulled up to the window, they told me the total, and I just stared blankly at my wallet. I simply could not grasp how much to give her! So I trustingly handed the girl a $20, she gave me my change, and I had to just hope it was correct. I couldn’t believe that I had lost the ability to do simple math. It was traumatizing, but hilarious at the same time.
– 31-year-old Michelle B, mother to a three-year-old son and marketing/communication specialist for a outsourced call center company

Would’ve forgotten my head….

About five weeks after Tanner was born, I lost my brain. I couldn’t focus, felt totally out of sorts, and started having anxiety that my numbskullness was going to lead to Tanner getting hurt or forgotten. The pinnacle day of lost brain consisted of me forgetting to eat breakfast, forgetting to pump, taking Tanner to daycare without a bottle (thank goodness the daycare lady had stored a frozen bottle for me, forgetting my cell phone (now, how is the daycare lady to reach me if I have no phone?), and forgetting books I needed for my class. I wanted to lock myself in the house until my brain returned. This lasted for about a month, then I felt “normal” again.
Michele T., mom of 6-month old Tanner, health and nutrition consultant.

Losing my mind

I have a lot of silly stories… pouring orange juice into my tea (instead of milk), getting all the way out to the car before realizing I had on two different shoes. I also remember feeling like I was losing it, thinking I had conversations with people that I never had. I remember my sister getting ticked off because we threw my mom a 50th birthday and I had thought I discussed some detail of it with her, but I later realized I had that conversation with my aunt. She forgave my pregnancy brain.
–Dawn Papandrea, “Write-On Mommy” to 3-year-old J.J.

 Sound off: Placenta brain stories, anyone? Add ’em here so we all don’t feel so foolish…

Read more:

  • Trimester 2: Baby brain
  • D.I.P.S.: Dumbness induced by pregnancy syndrome 

    Points and Prizes Keyword: COGNITIVE worth 50 points good through 02/17/08.

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