Friday 19 January 2018

Pregnant women 'more likely to mislay their keys'

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Library image

Kate Devlin

Mothers-to-be are more likely to mislay their keys and forget where they left other belongings than other women, according to a study which suggests that "pregnancy brain" may not be a myth.

Pregnant women have more trouble remembering where they left their possessions, researchers found, and the effects last for up to three months after they gave birth.

Researchers believe that fluctuating hormone levels during pregnancy affect the regions in the brain responsible for laying down memories.

Earlier this year scientists suggested that the idea that pregnancy ruined a woman’s brain was a “myth”.

Researchers from Australian National University said that pregnant women were no more likely to be absent-minded, but that they and others did tend to blame memory problems on their condition.

But a new study shows that pregnant women are more likely to forget where they have left their belongings.

Researchers tested two groups of women, one who were pregnant and another who were not.

They found that pregnant women performed around 15 per cent worse on tests designed to assess spatial memory – associated with remembering directions or where we have left possessions.

Similar results were found in the first three months after the women had given birth.

Questionnaires given at the same time also showed that the pregnant women were more likely to be anxious and to categorise their mood as low than other women.

Spatial memory is associated with a specific region in the brain called the hippocampus.

Altered hormone levels, such as those which happen during pregnancy, can affect the working of this region, scientists believe.

The study, carried out by the University of Bradford and the University of Leeds, tested the women using computer programmes which examine how well they can remember patterns and previously seen locations.

The findings of the study, which involved 23 expectant mothers and 24 women who were not pregnant, were presented at the annual Society for Endocrinology conference in Manchester.

Diane Farrar, who led the research, said: “Forgetfulness and slips of attention are phenomena commonly reported by pregnant women, but scientists have yet to identify a specific mechanism by which this memory impairment might occur.

“Indeed, some question whether the reported memory loss exists at all.

“The research presented here shows that expectant mothers may experience reduced spatial memory ability and this persists for at least three months following birth. Mood and level of anxiety improved following pregnancy, suggesting hormonal influences may be responsible.”

She added: “Altered mood and increased anxiety, which may be due to altered hormone levels or pregnancy related worries, may also adversely affect memory function.”

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