Dec 4, 2013

You really are losing your mind when you are pregnant!

From the American Journal of Neuroradiology: Study of change in brain size during and after pregnancy. 

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Qualitative decreases in maternal brain size have been observed late in pregnancy. The aim of this study was to quantitatively evaluate changes to the maternal brain during and after healthy pregnancy and to compare these changes with those observed in cases of preeclampsia.

METHODS: Three-dimensional T1-weighted MR volume images were obtained in nine healthy participants before and after delivery. Additional images were obtained in some of these participants before pregnancy, during pregnancy, and within 52 weeks after delivery. Five women with preeclampsia were examined before delivery and 6 weeks after delivery. Three of these patients were examined within 52 weeks after delivery. Images were registered, and both brain and ventricular volumes were calculated by using a semi automated computer program.

RESULTS: Both the healthy and preeclamptic groups had a reduction in brain size during pregnancy that was maximal at term and that reversed by 6 months after delivery. The ventricular size showed a corresponding increase in size during pregnancy and a decrease in size after delivery. In the preeclamptic patients, brain size was significantly smaller (P = .05) than in healthy participants, both before and after delivery.

CONCLUSION: The brain decreases in size during pregnancy and increases in size after delivery. The changes follow a consistent time course in each woman. The mechanism and physiologic importance of these findings are speculative at the present time.
(Find the study in it's entirety at http://www.ajnr.org/cgi/content/full/23/1/19.  There are a few different studies available, I chose this one to cite because it is very thorough and is available in its entirety 

Unfortunately, there is complete speculation and conflicting opinion as to why the shrinkage happens and no study has even begun to say that this shrinkage leads to our daftness, or anything else for that matter. The research of the different studies show the shrinkage between 3-5% and 4-8%, so not to worry it is not something crazy like 50%. It's also important to mention this shrinkage is most visible late in pregnancy, well into the third trimester.


I encourage you to google this yourselves.  It is amazing how three maybe four reputable studies, which really do provide enough evidence and brain scans to support the brain shrinkage theory, have given birth to so many incredibly silly theories on the shrinking brain.  I have to say firmly that I believe from a purely medical stand point that our brains shrink during pregnancy.  However, I have not been provided with any evidence that shows this shrinkage leads to any other pregnancy phenomenon or symptoms.  It is, what it is...

After hours of reading and studying, it is also clear to me thanks to all of the doctors, researchers and professionals that sleep deprivation, multi-tasking, the plethora of thoughts and fears that run through our minds and of course the raging hormones lead to this great "Baby Brain" phenomenon not our "Brain Shrinkage." I am still not sure I won't run around telling people my brain is shrinking so it's not my fault I'm so forgetful...I mean common...it's proven the brain shrinks, which I think clearly means, there's less room for all that important info! Hey, its ok to spread my filthy theory in person, of course I will set the record straight after a bit of fun.



My personal opinion, which is not worth a hill of Jack's magic beans, along with all of our other annoying pregnancy symptoms that we can do nothing about, since there is no "cure" besides delivery, we have to deal with both our "Baby Brains" and "Shrinking Brains" with as much class as possible.  We are daft and our brains are going to shrink, moving on... Ok, sure get some sleep, eat well, slow down and try to control your thoughts. Good luck controlling the raging hormones once you have roped everything else in. I've decided our brain realestate is WAY to valuable to lease out to figuring out why we only have a limited amount to lease out!

Two confused parents=One amused baby Hopelessly we are trying raise a baby who is clearly smarter than both of us. April is an award-winning writer and blogger. Her work has been published in over ten countries and four languages. From books to newspapers, to print/online magazines and everything in between, you can find her work. For more on April, Visit AprilMcCormick.com

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