Tag Archives: New Moms

Pregnancy Brain Is A Real Thing*

This is her brain. This is her brain on pregnancy.

When we were pregnant (and, if you’ve read that nearly-a-bestselling-book A Dude’s Guide to Babies: The New Dad’s Playbook, you’ll know it’s a two-person event, pregnancy), we liked to refer to it as PIS, or pregnancy-induced senility.

That way, she could say she PISed off and we could laugh when she locked her keys inside the car in line at the car wash and I had to leave work to come rescue her because she was crying and upset. It was that or start screaming my own self and that would have been a bad idea.

Hell might have no fury like a woman scorned, but even they run in fear of pregnant women. And it’s not simply because of the wacky hormones running amok in their bloodstream. But that is a post for another day.A woman's brain really does change during pregnancy, but I'm pretty sure that would be a bad thing to mention to an actual pregnant woman. Because pregnancy also does wacky things to their emotional lability.

What my wife, known to me as She Who Must, While Pregnant, Be Getting What She Wants So That I Might Be Allowed To Continue My Miserable Existence, and I called PIS also is known as pregnancy brain. There are those who say it is a myth.

They are, according to science, very much wrong. Pregnancy brain is real. However, it’s more than merely pregnant women forgetting stuff.

“Pregnancy brain” definitely exists, but it may not be as negative as you think. In fact, it can make you more perceptive of other people’s emotions, according to new research presented at British Psychological Society Annual Conference in the U.K. 

Pregnant women were more sensitive to facial emotion in all of the pictures, which could mean that the right hemisphere of their brains (the one usually responsible for recognizing visual emotion) was more active in them than in new moms, meaning they could process emotion from all angles. This might be the body’s way of preparing a soon-to-be mom to be more responsive to a baby once it’s born.

But, I hear you calling**, dude! That has nothing to do with putting a box of cereal away in the fridge. True, but this does.

One meta-analysis of 14 studies in 2007 found some evidence of memory impairments in pregnant women, though the findings weren’t totally consistent. Another 2010 study says that hormonal changes during pregnancy can affect your memory of spatial locations, but the research only looked at less than 50 women. 

All of which goes to show that, while pregnancy does make some demonstrable physical changes to a woman’s brain, we can’t say with certainty that it’s what causes her to forget stuff, to lose stuff, to become absent minded, to get mixed up with simple directions or any of that stuff.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say, even with conclusive scientific evidence to back you up, it’s probably a good idea to not mention any of the negative stuff that might have something to do with pregnancy brain.

If you’re not able to simply turn and run (which, oddly, seems to be my most frequently offered bit of advice for dudes dealing with pregnant women), I think your best bet would be to say that, yes, pregnancy does change a woman’s brain.

But it’s for the good. Pregnant brains are actually changing so moms-to-be can better bond with the little dude or little dudette.

Then turn and run.

Footnotes & Errata

* But don’t think that gets you off the hook for even considering the possibility of maybe mentioning it. Sort of like saying the word menopause when talking to ladies of a certain age. Not a good idea.

** But I’d better not hear you call me Beth. (Wow, that was an obscure and very old joke.)

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New-Dad Blues

by Richard

According to a recent scientific study, new moms aren’t the only people who can get depressed following the birth of a baby: new dads can get hit with an emotional cliff drop as well.

One in 10 fathers, and one in five mothers, experience prenatal or postpartum depression, with the risks peaking when the baby is 3 to 6 months old, a new study reveals.

“Depression affects both parents and both parents should be on the lookout for it,” said lead researcher James Paulson of Eastern Virginia Medical School.

The risk for both parents is highest in the United States, leading researchers to speculate that work and policy conditions — such as standard three-month maternity leaves — might contribute to the rise in parental depressionat this time.

And while Dad’s depression may take a different tone, with more irritable and angry behaviors, than Mom’s, it is likely to be just as detrimental to the child, the researchers say.

In an article published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the researchers say, while it’s more likely to affect men in the United States, this is an international problem.

Analyzing 43 studies, involving 28,004 participants, (the study authors) tracked depression in fathers from the first trimester through the first year postpartum. The researchers also searched for evidence of publication bias — where null effects go unreported — and found the data likely reflects the general population accurately.

On average the studies showed, 10.4 percent of new fathersbecame depressed during the gestational or postpartum period. In the subset of studies that looked at paternal well-being three to six months after the baby was born, 25.6 percent of fathers were depressed.

Both fathers and mothers in the United States were more likely to experience depressionthan their counterparts in Europe, Australia, South America and China, the researchers found. Paternal depression rates stood at 14.1 percent in the United States and 8.2 percent internationally.

“Three months is when family leave runs out [in the United States], and I can’t help but wonder if that has something to do with it,” a researcher said. “But there is also a lot going on with the child by that time.”

There’s a lot more at the link, and this time I think it’s pretty important reading. It’s probably a good idea to get some more information on stuff like this if you’ve got a new little dude on the way or if you’ve just added a new little dudette to the house. If you are in one of those situations and you are grouchy, irritable and/or depressed, it’s going to be okay. Find someone — a professional — to talk with.

You don’t have to go through this alone.

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