Pregnancy Dampens Memory

FRIDAY March 19, 2010 -- If you're pregnant and having trouble remembering things, a new study suggests it might not be just you.

British researchers found that pregnant women had more trouble remembering the positions of objects as the birth of their child neared.

The women even had trouble with what's called spatial recognition memory -- the ability to know where things are in the world -- for at least three months after birth.

"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," researcher Diane Farrar said in a news release from the Society for Endocrinology.

Farrar and her colleagues at Bradford Institute for Health Research in the United Kingdom studied 23 pregnant women and 24 women who weren't pregnant. The women took computer tests to see how well they could learn rules and plan moving things within a space, and whether they remembered previously seen patterns and locations.

The researchers found that pregnant women did significantly worse on the tests, and also had higher levels of anxiety and depression.

What's going on? "Mood and level of anxiety improved following pregnancy, suggesting hormonal influences may be responsible. More research is now needed to identify the neurological effects of pregnancy to help guide future research and provide information for women and those involved in maternity care," Farrar said.

The findings were presented this week at the Society for Endocrinology conference in Manchester, England.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has details on memory.

Posted: March 2010


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