Does "baby brain" really exist?

Answers from Roger W. Harms, M.D.

There isn't enough information to support the existence of baby brain — a term 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. Other research has 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. Keep in mind that 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.

Dec. 08, 2012 See more Expert Answers