I've attributed my forgetful behavior to baby brain, the idea that you lose cognitive abilities when you have a child. But new research suggests this concept should be, well, forgotten. Because for as many studies that show pregnancy and motherhood lead to cognitive impairment, there are studies to suggest positive associations between cognitive function and becoming a mom.
"The only consensus that we have is that the data are mixed at this point," says Joanna Workman from the University at Albany. "This is a question that applies to other areas as well—for example why people believe the lunar phases of the moon are associated with psychological function and behavior."
In other words, baby brain is backed by as much science as a full moon being a popular time to give birth. In fact, if you believe new research, becoming a mom may even improve your cognitive function! Katherine Tombeau Cost from the University of Toronto would argue that given the amount of cognitive load moms are under, it's impressive we function as well as we do.
"When a woman becomes pregnant and a new mother, she has much more to think about. Any person can tell you that when you're thinking about more, you start to feel as though you're not feeling about anything particularly well. You feel more stressed and more overwhelmed and more as though you're falling behind," she says. "You're about to do some very demanding work. So the idea of 'baby brain,' and that the mother would become impaired, doesn't make much sense."
Tombeau Cost points out there is evidence from animal studies to suggest mothers become more efficient after the birth of their offspring, perhaps as a biological way to sustain their baby's life given any obstacle. Studies have found a new mom is also more able to read the emotions of others; which is clearly a cognitive skill associated with better parenting. You totally called it when your baby was starving this morning!
So the next time you want to blame your lack of ability to recall a certain word on baby brain, shift your focus. You may be too distracted to remember what a particular object is called, but damn are you scrappy—and mama, that empathy looks good on you!
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.