Health Team

Does 'baby brain' strike pregnant women?

Posted February 15, 2010 12:30 p.m. EST
Updated February 15, 2010 7:51 p.m. EST

— Researchers are studying a phenomenon popularly called "baby brain," in which women say pregnancy appears to make them feel distracted and lose concentration easily.

At 3½-months pregnant, Shifra Landowne said she doesn't quite feel like herself.

"I am just very flaky sometimes," she said. "Today, I left my wallet somewhere on my way out shopping. That was not usual for me."

Landowne described the symptoms of "baby brain" as "just being a little more forgetful about things," she said.

A recent study, though, found that despite generations of claims, the phenomenon doesn't have a physical basis.

Pregnant women "don't have a decrease in brain function," said Dr. Jennifer Wu, a gynecologist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

More than 1,200 women were given memory tests before and after they gave birth. The study concluded that there is no apparent link between memory loss and pregnancy.

Instead, researchers found that abnormal absent-mindedness in pregnant women might result from having more on their mind and from being tired.

"Pregnant women don't sleep as well. Anyone who is sleep deprived will have a decrease in memory," Wu said.

Researchers offered simple advice: Eat well, get plenty of sleep and try to remember to make a to-do list.

Anri Benninkmeyer, who is five months pregnant, said she still believes in baby brain but is trying to keep a light-hearted attitude about it.

"Laugh it off, and enjoy it as one other quirk of the process you're going through," Benninkmeyer said.