At some point in most women’s pregnancies, they realize that the idea of the “baby brain” is not myth at all. It may be because they are searching for the keys, or they put their sweater on inside out, or they have a sneaking suspicion they forgot something—like the baby.
Read more: 12 ways to beat a case of baby brain >
Turns out “baby brain” is real—your brain changes during pregnancy and the effects may be lifelong, says a University of British Columbia neuroscientist. Dr Liisa Galea says that 75 percent of pregnant women report cases of memory loss—and they really are more forgetful. Lack of sleep and increased demands on your body and memory account for some of the brain fog—but not of all of it. The brain shrinks up to eight percent during pregnancy thanks to the huge surge of hormones. The brain returns to normal size about six months postpartum—but I doubt I’m alone in thinking that most mothers feel like the fog lasts for much longer (or forever, in my case). And the more kids you have, especially girls, the worse that baby brain feeling may be, says Dr. Galea.
The good news is that once kids are independent (does that still happen?) mothers have better memory retention than non-mothers. The brain may have increased plasticity thanks to the hormones and the “enriching experience” of being a mother does the brain good—eventually. But Dr. Galea brings up a relevant (if not slightly scary) point. What are the lifelong implications of your brain shrinking like a raisin and then puffing back up again?
She said there hasn’t been enough research into how mothers’ brains change over time. For instance, there is a chance that mothers may react differently to medication or are at at a higher risk of Alzheimer’s because of their brain changes. But on a slightly more positive note—mothers have a decreased risks of many cancers.
So it’s a good news, bad news scenario for those of us with “baby brain” (or in my case “mother of teen brain”)—we are more forgetful for a while and then, once our kids are out of the house, we can remember where we put the keys.