Does "baby brain" really exist?

Answers from Myra Wick, M.D., Ph.D.

There isn't enough information to support the existence of baby brain or pregnancy brain — terms used to describe the idea that pregnancy or early motherhood can harm a woman's memory and ability to think.

Researchers began studying the theory of baby brain because women frequently report cognitive changes, particularly forgetfulness, during pregnancy and shortly after becoming mothers. Studies examining the relationship between pregnancy or the early stages of motherhood and changes in a woman's ability to think, however, have produced conflicting results.

Some studies have shown that pregnancy impairs a woman's memory during pregnancy and shortly afterward, possibly due to hormonal changes, sleep deprivation or the stress of coping with a major life change. At least one study has suggested that short-term memory problems during pregnancy might be linked with depressed mood. However, further research is needed. Other studies have shown that pregnancy and motherhood have no negative cognitive impacts.

Because the concept of baby brain is so widely accepted, some experts suggest that pregnant women and new mothers are more aware of everyday cognitive slips. As a result, they might mistakenly perceive themselves as having trouble thinking.

If you're pregnant or a new mother, don't assume that you're experiencing a cognitive decline. Becoming a mother involves an emotional and physical transition. While you're adjusting, focus on the positive aspects of pregnancy, motherhood and the journey ahead. If you have any concerns about your moods, talk to your health care provider.


Myra Wick, M.D., Ph.D.

Nov. 12, 2015