Baby Brain? Nah -- Having a Baby Increases a Woman's Memory
The Brain Shrinks During Pregnancy, But Bounces Right Back -- and Gets Stronger -- Afterwards, According to a New Study
That old theory that motherhood leaves new mommies with worse memory skills? Not true, according to a new study that concludes motherhood actually boosts a woman's memory.
The study, conducted at Carlos Albizu University in Miami, was presented last week at the American Psychological Association meeting in Orlando.
Previous studies, MNN.com reports, have contradicted each other, but new study researcher Melissa Santiago analyzed info from 35 first-time moms of kids 10-24 months old and 35 women who have never been pregnant.
The women, who were mostly Hispanic and scored roughly the same on IQ tests, were shown a piece of paper with six symbols on it. They looked at the paper for 10 seconds, and then were asked to draw what they had seen. The test was repeated several times.
The results: in the first test, both groups of women remembered the same amount. But in the second and third rounds of testing, the mommies performed better, which led to the conclusion that the moms gathered more information each round.
Next, the women were shown a new set of symbols and then asked to recall the symbols they were shown earlier. The moms remembered them all, without a mistake, while the non-moms made a couple of errors.
Santiago's conclusion for why mommy memories may be better? During pregnancy, mom brains actually shrink by four to six percent. But about six months after giving birth, the brain returns to normal size and actually remaps itself, which may account for the memory boost.
The memory improvement may also be a biological response to moms' needs to be extra diligent about assessing potential dangers to their children, she says.
"I'm constantly searching my environment, scanning everywhere, to make sure that they're not going to harm themselves, they're not going to do anything that will cause them to choke or to be endangered," mommy-of-two Santiago said.