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For every study seeming to prove Pregnancy Brain's existence, another comes along pointing out it might not be caused by anything other than being a pregnant woman. That is to said a woman who is all of the sudden thinking 24/7 about all the decisions a new mother needs to make-Day care? Breast feeding? What type of crib to buy?- including is she staying healthy during her pregnancy, avoiding the wrong foods? eating the right ones? taking her vitamins? going to all the appointments, etc, etc. Also sleep is often not normal during pregnancy, so it is possible the temporary memory issues are due to a combination of much more on one’s mind and a lack of sleep.
Some studies, according to their research methods, have claimed to prove that Pregnancy Brain exists and it is linked to an increase in hormones found in the woman's body. But the major thing to keep in mind here is their research methods. One particular study, done by the Diane Farrar and others at the University of Bradford, England in 2010 compares pregnant women to non-pregnant women in various cognitive tasks testing their memory. When looked at as a whole, the pregnant group didn't do as well in the memory tasks as the non-pregnant group. In addition, blood samples were drawn and the hormone levels of progesterone, estradiol, and prolactin were higher in the pregnant women. Well there is no surprise on the hormone levels, and it seems that because the levels were higher and the memory was decreased the researchers made the stretch that the two were connected. (Despite being able to track down some of Farrar’s other publications, I can’t find this exact paper so I’m not entirely sure how much the authors attempted to correlate the hormone levels to the memory issues). There is a major flaw in this research design pointed out by another researcher, Helen Christensen, and I completely agree. The flaw in previous studies is they compare pregnant women to completely different non-pregnant women. What does that really prove since we don't know what the memory functioning was like in the pregnant women before (or after) they were pregnant? Comparing two different groups of people’s memory skills without getting a baseline measurement really doesn’t tell us much. Christensen set out to change the experimental design when looking into Pregnancy Brain with her 2010 study. Christensen’s study followed not-yet pregnant women (age 20 to 24) for four years, applying the same cognitive tests the first year and so on in follow up years. In order to ensure there would be enough pregnant subjects to compare with their non-pregnant baseline the researchers started with around 1200 women, and sometime within the four years of the study 76 of them became pregnant and were tested with the same tests while pregnant. And the researchers didn’t find any significant differences in the tests run comparing individual women to their non-pregnant and pregnant results. This is, of course, only one study but more studies like this would go further to prove or disprove the theory of Pregnancy Brain than the boatload of studies like Farrar's comparing to separate groups of women.
To me it seems a lot of these studies don’t have sufficient research methodology to conclude that Pregnancy Brain exists. That is not to say that I don’t believe that pregnant women suffer bouts of memory loss from time to time. I just think it all can be explained by the overall change in status a pregnant women goes through- the many additional things on her mind combined with the change in the amount of sleep she is getting. And to be honest, I'm not sure what doing all of these studies will accomplish.