Is 'Mom Brain' Legit?

The other day, I turned to my son, opened my mouth to speak and plum forgot what I was going to say. It's the third time I've done that this month. I've also picked up a fun habit where I walk into a room for a specific reason, then completely blank on it the moment my feet clear the entrance. And occasion, I've been known to accidentally call my child by the dog or cat's name or, worse, sometimes both, roll-call style.

Yup, it's official: I'm turning into my mother. Or at least my mind is, according to a new study.

As researchers at the University of British Columbia recently discovered, "mom brain" is really a thing. It's among the awesome changes pregnancy and childbirth give us ladies—right alongside thinning hair, sagging boobs, stretch marks, bigger feet... oh, you get the point. In the past, we've chalked up the fogginess and forgetfulness to stress, diet, lack of sleep, and too much multitasking. But as this study found, our freewheeling pre- and postnatal hormones do in fact play a role. "Our most recent research shows that previous motherhood alters cognition and neuroplasticity in response to hormone therapy, demonstrating that motherhood permanently alters the brain," said lead researcher Dr. Liisa Galea in a statement. ("Permanently alters the brain"? Yikes!)

To reach that scary-sounding conclusion, Dr. Galea and her team focused on the hippocampus, a section of the brain we rely on for memory and spatial relation. They then gave lab rats two types of estrogen hormones—estrone, which is found in older women, and estradiol, which is mostly in younger women—and set them on a water maze to test their memory and navigation skills. The group that received estradiol performed better in the maze than the ones who were given estrone. But more tellingly, the rats who were given estrone and had previously given birth were slower to learn and had less protein needed for neuroplasticity than their childless peers who were given the same hormone.

While these findings don't offer much help for new moms, they could inform the type of hormone replacement therapy you receive in the future (should you choose to go that route when you hit menopause). Um, yay? In the meantime, I may end up following some moms' advice and playing Sudoku or stocking up on lots (and lots) of post-it notes. How about you? What tricks do you use to help with mom brain?

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Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.

Feeling forgetful? Dr. Obosa Osawe gets to the bottom of what's commonly called "pregnancy brain.

Image of forgetful mom courtesy of Shutterstock

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