'Baby brain' is a myth as having a baby turns women into better workers, study claims
Scientists believe that a new mother's brain evolves to better cope with stress, evolving to provide improved management skills.
Published 08/01/2016 | 11:52
It is a popular belief often seized-upon by new mothers convinced their brain has turned to mush.
But scientists now claim that the curse of “baby brain” is a myth and that, to the contrary, women are actually better workers after giving birth.
Having a baby can improve employability and performance because post natal brains are re-wired to cope with the increased necessity to plan and multi-task, experts found.
Although early research discovered that the brain shrinks by up to seven per cent during pregnancy, scientists found that it later expanded as new mothers developed the ability to manage stress and improve strategic thinking, judgment and empathy, becoming more emotionally resilient.
From the third trimester onwards, there is a reduction in the “flight or fight” area of the brain, meaning that mothers are likely to become much less stressed in order to cope with increased demands, they said.
Experiments have also shown that from late pregnancy, women get better at detecting fear, anger and disgust in others’ faces to enable them to protect their child and detect threats.
Craig Kinsley, a neuroscientist at the University of Richmond in Virginia, said that in adults such rapid changes in grey matter would otherwise only occur as a result of major events like illness or brain injury.
He said it proved that “pregnancy is not just some minor event” but represented a “developmental period every bit as important as sexual differentiation or puberty.”
An analysis of data published in the New Scientist, concluded: “There is now a large body of evidence that a woman’s intellect does not suffer in any way after having her baby.”
The article, titled The Real Baby Brain, noted that up to four-fifths of pregnant women claimed to have more trouble remembering phone numbers or stringing a complex sentence together than before they got pregnant.
But it suggested that the prevalence of the “baby brain” phenomenon may simply be down to cultural priming and social norms which influenced women’s perceptions of their own brainpower.
Research scientist Kelly Lambert, who contributed to the article, said: “Being able to be more efficient in your decision-making, being emotionally resilient, maybe being able to engage in different strategies to solve a problem… that sounds like a wonderful executive or manager to me.”
Sally Adee, features editor at New Scientist said: "Starting in early pregnancy I became increasingly nervous about what would happen to my brain after having kids.
"Would I stop caring about my job - or worse, keep caring but no longer be capable of doing it?
"After returning from maternity leave, I began to notice unexpected changes - where I used to be a fairly anxious person, after having my twins, it was much harder to rattle me.
"My to-do list also seemed to evaporate more readily.
"When I started looking into the science behind all this, I found researchers had uncovered some really surprising changes that maternity causes in the brain."