Anyone who’s been pregnant and given birth has experienced the phenomenon known as “baby brain”. You’re having a conversation but just can’t find the words, you lose your phone to later find it in the fridge and, all of a sudden, you can’t remember that pin for your bank card – just when you need it most.
For me personally, a somewhat greedy soul who in days gone by always ensured she had her fair share of dim sum when out sharing plates, soon realised post-partum that I’d be eating lunch and I didn’t have a clue what I’d had and what I hadn’t. I found myself asking, “is that one mine or yours?”.
Some have questioned whether this condition actually exists. Is baby brain real? Well, scientists have answered those questions. Lucky us.
There have been some very interesting studies done using brain scans of pregnant ladies and new mums and the results are fascinating.
The most interesting findings came from Elseline Hoekzema, Ph.D, a senior neuroscientist at Leiden University in the Netherlands. In 2016 she published a study in Nature Neuroscience. In it, she conducted M.R.I scans on the brains of 25 first-time mothers before they got pregnant and again soon after they’d given birth. These were compared with scans from 20 women who had never given birth.
The women who’d given birth had a reduction in grey matter of the brain and those changes lasted up to two years after birth.
I bet you’re wondering what the grey matter in the brain is responsible for? Well, it plays a huge role in the execution of tasks like hearing, seeing, decision making as well as processing emotions and memories. In fact the images showed a significant in reduction of grey matter in the hippocampus, which is the area mostly responsible for regulating memory. So instead of remembering fairly useless bits of information like people’s names, what day it is or where you left your phone, your newly reformed brain will reallocate resources to the parts of the brain that control “theory of mind”, helping your empathy skills and ability to work out what someone else (aka your baby) wants and needs. Dr Hoekzema also pointed out that the same areas of the brain lit up when mothers looked at their new babies, suggesting this synaptic pruning (elimination of some brain connections to form new ones) may also happen in order to promote mother-infant bonding.
So, is it love? Yes, I believe it is.