The milk carton is in the dishwasher. You forgot to turn up to the meeting you’ve been preparing for all week. And you’re crying over Corrie. It’s official; you’ve succumbed to Mumnesia.
Yet again, a new study has reopened the debate about whether Baby Brain really exists. For years it was dismissed as a myth by most scientists - an excuse for women who were so focussed on their pregnancy that they stopped thinking about other things.
Fortunately - if you’ve got to tell your boss why you missed the meeting or your partner’s in a mood because there’s no milk for breakfast - that’s now changing. Forgetfulness, emotional rollercoasters and a lack of concentration - recognised by mums-to-be worldwide - are finally being explained by science, although there are still plenty of studies that put it down to nothing more than sleep deprivation.
Sleep deprivation or something more?
For mum-of-four Jenny, who’s normally hyper-organised, forgetting things when she was pregnant wasn’t funny.
“With all four of mine I’ve been really forgetful and done stupid things. There was one day I was trying to feed the toddler but he was having a full-on tantrum because I’d forgotten to buy bananas. The eldest was devastated because he was the only one in his class without a costume on Roman Day, and I had to trek back to school because my daughter had no swimming kit.
“I phoned the midwife in a flood of tears - I was soooo emotional as well! She told me it was just because I wasn’t sleeping well. Seriously. I’d got three kids under eight - I hadn’t slept well in eight years and I was pretty confident I knew the effects of sleep deprivation. ‘Mumnesia’ is not just tiredness!”
So if Baby Brain isn’t the result of getting up for a wee ten times a night; trying to get comfy with cushions shoved under every curve; and being kicked from the inside out every time you lie down, then what’s going on?
Some bits of your brain get more active...
Researchers at the University of London have discovered that your brain actually changes when you’re pregnant - there’s an increase in activity in the emotional area of the brain, probably to prepare for post-natal bonding. But while that may explain the tears and tantrums, it doesn’t explain the forgetfulness.
...but overall, your brain shrinks
Your brain actually does get smaller when your pregnant, by about 6% - returning to pre-pregnancy size about six months later. The reasons and effects of this aren’t clear, but for anyone trying explain their Baby Brain, it’s surely a fact worth remembering!
It’s your hormones, dear
Although it sounds a bit of a cop out, hormones seem to be the most likely explanation. Throughout pregnancy, you’re swirling with oestradiol, progesterone, cortisol, prolactin and globulin - and so the most common theory is that it’s this cocktail that affects memory and focus.
It’s clear that more research is needed. But while scientists continue debating, any mum-to-be who’s jumped in the shower fully clothed, or spent ten minutes searching the car park for her car, can rest assured that she’s not the first. It may just be that, despite feeling somewhat ditzy, pregnant women are a step ahead of the research. Because try telling a mum-to-be that Baby Brain isn’t a thing...