pregnancy

Can new mums really suffer from a thing called 'mumnesia'?

Westpac
Thanks to our brand partner, Westpac

My mother often tells the story of being pregnant with her second set of twins, and searching high and low for the bottles she’d placed in the fridge only moments ago.

Instead, she found two dirty nappies sitting right beside the milk.

She’d thrown the bottles in the bin and placed the nappies in the fridge.

Pregnant women often tell stories of forgetting where they’ve parked the car. Or going to an ATM to withdraw money and suddenly having a mental blank as to what their pin number is. Or frantically searching for their phone, before discovering that they’re on it.

‘Pregnancy brain’ or ‘mumnesia’ have become as accepted a part of pregnancy as sore nipples or lower back pain. But is there actually any truth to it?

On the latest episode of Mamamia’s pregnancy podcast Hello Bump in partnership with Westpac, Rebecca Judd insists that pregnancy brain is a very real phenomenon.

But obstetrician, gynecologist and IVF specialist, Dr Joseph Sgroi, says as much as one might feel forgetful, ‘mumnesia’ is absolutely a myth.

“From the point of view of a woman who potentially feels as though she has pregnancy brain, there’s probably a whole other reason why,” Dr Sgroi says. He doesn’t discount Judd’s very real experience of vagueness and confusion, but says it has less to do with being pregnant, and more to do with fatigue.

Sgroi says it’s similar to having a big night out – you’ve slept badly and you might feel nauseated, and thus you struggle to remember the simplest things.

“Of course you’re going to be sub par,” he concludes.

Pregnant woman working on laptop at home
If you're tired, "of course you're going to be sub par," Sgroi says. Image via iStock.

An Australia study that looked at more than 15,000 women, examined their IQ pre-conception, during pregnancy, and following birth.

Their results were exactly the same at every stage, suggesting that when put under pressure, women are able to perform regardless of hormones or fatigue - even if they feel impaired.

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Sgroi argues that rather than undermining brain function, heightened levels of estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy increase social development and our nurturing capacity, and thus prepare women for being great mothers.

"These hormones make you actually want to be a mum and look after that child," Sgroi says.

"Pregnancy brain, in terms of forgetting stuff," Sgroi concludes, "...it's not true."

The inevitable 5:30am wake up post Daylight Savings. Lucky they're cute!

A post shared by Rebecca Judd (@becjudd) on

A study published in Neuroscience and Bioehavioural Reviews, found that pregnant rats had greater resilience to stress, lower anxiety and enhanced memory, compared to their non-pregnant counterparts.

So if you find yourself walking into a room and immediately forgetting what you were looking for, or frequently unable to remember where on earth you parked the car, 'mumnesia' is not to blame.

Rather, it's probably a combination of fatigue, pain or discomfort, and distraction.

Other than that, your brain is in perfect working order.

You can listen to the full episode of Hello Bump, here. 

Have you listened to Mamamia's Hello, Bump podcast? Like to have your opinion heard? So do we and we love to hear yours.
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This content was created with thanks to our brand partner Westpac.

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