Your Pregnancy Changed Your Brain Forever
If you’ve been pregnant, you’re familiar with the “baby brain” or “mom brain” phenomenon. I watched my wife go through it. Through the last trimester she seemed more forgetful and scatterbrained. Perfect, cogent sentences turned to scrambled eggs on the way from her frontal lobe to her mouth.
I was first introduced to the idea of baby brain when one of my older sisters was pregnant with her first child. Back then I had the impression that it was temporary. The baby sucks all the brain juice through the umbilical cord. When it’s born, the brain replenishes. Such was my goofy cartoon of an explanation for my sister’s bizarre fluctuations in “normal” brain function. In my defence, I was still in high school.
It turns out, according to a study by the Canadian Association for Neuroscience, the changes aren’t temporary at all.
It should be no surprise to any of us that an influx of new hormones can make permanent changes to the way our brains work. We’ve all been through puberty, right? Science hasn't studied the changes pregnancy brings about to the extent they have the changes puberty triggers. There are a few reasons for that. For one thing, it only has the potential to happen to half the population. The half that, for a long time, wasn’t given anywhere near enough attention from the scientific community.
There are two major forms of estrogens found in women. Estradiol is the form found more in young women, and estrone is found more in middle-aged and older women. The short version of the study’s results are if you’ve been pregnant at some point in your life, estrone will likely impair your ability to learn. If you’ve never been pregnant, estrone will have the opposite effect. It’ll improve your learning ability. Remember, estrone increases in your body as you get older. Keep in mind the study was performed on female rats, not human women. So we don’t know how far the effect extends to humans.
That said, it still doesn’t sound like great news for moms, unfortunately. Chalk it up to the mounting number of sacrifices moms make for the sake of their kids. The positive side to all this is that we now know pregnancy is a factor in brain health later in life. Doctors will be able to adjust hormone therapy and treatment of brain disorders like Alzheimer’s based on a patient’s history as a mom.
I hope that more study is given to how pregnancy affects the brain. This one investigation has given us a bit of unfortunate news, but I’m certain there are trade-offs. I hope to one day be able to tell you science has confirmed what we all know to be true: moms have the superhuman mental capacity needed to be on point for their kids 24/7!