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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

'Preghead', 'baby brain'... is it real?

53 replies

porpoisefull · 15/05/2011 19:09

At the moment one of the discussions of the day is all about pregnant women recounting the silly things they do 'because they are pregnant'. When I was pregnant, I didn't find I was any more likely than usual to do daft things and I found it quite insulting that people might assume that I was going to be all ditzy. For example shortly after telling my SIL I was pregnant, I said the wrong word in a sentence, and she jumped on it "Ooh, nappy brain already!"

This study suggests it's a myth, and I've always thought people are keen to attribute to female hormones effects that are probably just the result of feeling knackered, or being distracted by having someone kicking at your insides. If a man with a 3 week old child was a bit absent minded at work, people would call it sleep deprivation not 'baby brain'.

I wondered whether other people here thought it was real or a myth?

OP posts:
TrillianAstra · 15/05/2011 19:19

If it's due to hormones or due to being very tired, feeling sick often, and/or being kicked on the inside frequently, it's still real that (some) women become much more absent-minded when pregnant. All of those things are still the pregnancy causing the absent-mindedness.

AdelaofBlois · 15/05/2011 19:32

I think it's rather clear it isn't 'real'-if major things happen to you (and preganncy is about as major as you can get) and you make mistakes, you link the two. The study showed pregnant women were no more absent-minded than non-pregnant ones, just felt they were or blamed the same amount of absent-mindedness on pregnancy. Which is a horrible way of crapping on women's feelings, but does anyone really keep lists of 'absent-mindedness' generally?

I'd be more interested in whether it was useful. My partner hates it-thinks it is used against women but never to help them (especially in the workplace). I, on the other hand, visibly fell asleep in a job interview ten days after DS1 was born, and got given leeway for it 9got the job!). Some women i know think it useful training for accepting the lack of control over body and life that come with pregannacy, a way of handlign the fear light-heartedly.

Any thoughts?

motherinferior · 15/05/2011 19:35

It annoys the hell out of me too. I analysed and wrote about a fairly complex bit of legislation at about 36 weeks into my first pregnancy and passed my driving test 37 weeks into my second (five days, in fact, before giving birth). I loathed every minute of both said pregnancies but my brain - unlike my stomach muscles, digestive system and general wellbeing - did just fine.

LRDTheFeministDragon · 15/05/2011 20:02

It seems only certain countries think you are more absent-minded during pregnancy, though ... SIL is German and has never heard of that myth (and she wrote I think 3 academic papers during her pregnancy), and my MIL is Russian and equally, never heard of it.

Call me cynical, but somehow, if it were all that real, wouldn't it affect women in all countries, not just the ones where women have been told to expect they'll feel absent-minded?

LRDTheFeministDragon · 15/05/2011 20:04

Btw, something else I don't get: isn't the pill basically tricking our bodies into thinking we're in the early stages of pregnancy? So how come we don't find droves of absent-minded pill-poppers?

Bumperlicioso · 15/05/2011 20:06

I don't know. I honestly lose the ability to park when pg, not even just when I am big and can't turn around.

Similarly my (female) driving instructor could tell when I was on my period just by my (worse than usual) driving. It honestly wouldn't surprise me. Hormones have all kinds of effects on our behaviour, that's their job. It's hard to separate what is being caused by the physical effect of just being pg and what is caused by the common side effect of tiredness, or just the mind having something else to focus on.

LRDTheFeministDragon · 15/05/2011 20:08

Not saying hormones don't have an effect on us, or that they don't have different effects on different people ... I'm just a bit sceptical about this particular myth. Will have to wait and see though ... threads like this make me suspect karma will store up the pregnancy from hell for me ... Grin

maxpower · 15/05/2011 20:09

Might it be that, like with every other aspect of pregnancy, some women will be affected in this way and some women won't? When I was expecting DD I felt fabulous and couldn't understand why friends of mine complained about being pregnant. But when I was expecting DS I felt awful the whole time. If a woman or her friends haven't experienced 'baby brain' it's understandable that they might question it's existance. I particularly remember having terrible memory problems for a good 6 months after DD was born - she was an excellent sleeper so I can't put it down to sleep deprivation - and from 6 months onwards, my memory gradually got back to normal. If that wasn't connected to the effects of pregnancy/birth, I can't think of any other cause.

Straight2Extremes · 15/05/2011 20:09

Hormones can and do affect peoples behaviour it's going to vary from woman to woman though.

TrillianAstra · 15/05/2011 20:10

LRD your SIL wrote 3 academic papers in less than 9 months?! Kudos for that even if she hadn't been pregnant!

I suppose we could take some non-pregnant women, deprive them of sleep, make them nauseous, make them have to wee every 30 minutes, kick them in the stomach repeatedly, and see if they could still park/think as well as usual? :o

porpoisefull · 15/05/2011 20:10

LRD, that's really interesting that it's not a common belief in all countries. AdelaofBlois, I can't believe you were having a job interview 10 days after having a baby!

OP posts:
maxpower · 15/05/2011 20:11

bumperlicioso, my driving instructor told me the same thing

TadlowDogIncident · 15/05/2011 20:14

I find it very annoying - I hated being pregnant, but it didn't affect my brain at all (unlike the post-natal sleep deprivation, which did). I get really angry when people talk about "baby brain": certainly my experience is that it's a way of belittling what you're going through when you're trying to function on two hours' sleep a night, and have been for a couple of months.

Bumperlicioso · 15/05/2011 20:14


I also accept that some people falsly correlate things that occur together too, so there is an element of that. There maybe some psychosomatic effect though, sort of playing up to the 'role' of a pregnant woman.

Bumperlicioso · 15/05/2011 20:17

Interesting maxpower. The problem it's not the sort of thing you really want to establish as true because it will put women at a disadvantage and pave the way for misogynistic laws like 'woman are not allowed to drive which pg or on their period'.

Ormirian · 15/05/2011 20:18

I was more daft than usual when pregnant. But that was probably because I was much more tired than usual. I don't cope well with tired.

LRDTheFeministDragon · 15/05/2011 20:40

Trill, it's ok, she cheats writes collaboratively, so it's not her doing all the work. She's just had a job interview and the baby isn't a month old yet, though - I feel unlikely to follow her example.

maxpower · 15/05/2011 20:44

bumperlicioso, I can just see the new clauses bieng drawn up for insurance policies now.....!

maxpower · 15/05/2011 20:45

*being Blush

BestNameEver · 15/05/2011 21:00

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

CointreauVersial · 15/05/2011 21:14

I had a few majorly absent-minded moments while pg, doing things that I have never done before or since. For example, trying to fill my petrol car with diesel, or reversing my car out of the drive, straight into DH's car which was quite clearly parked behind me. It certainly felt like there was a lump of lard occupying my skull instead of a brain on occasions. It wasn't lack of sleep.

coastgirl · 15/05/2011 21:18

I'm 27 weeks and have found complex things easy to deal with - I went into teaching A2 English Literature with a week's notice after five years without teaching it and have had no problism discussing texts in detail, but I have struggled with some small things. I couldn't spell 'treasure' for love nor money the other day! I think because I am more tired, I prioritise things that take more energy and it leaves less for less important tasks.


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MoChan · 15/05/2011 21:56

I think a lot of people just get tired more easily when they are pregnant, and that's how such a myth might arise. I carried on working with no problems (managing large team, endless proof reading) until the day before I went into labour.

I have been definitely more absent minded since having my daughter though, but I don't think it's the norm; dd is one of the busiest, most energetic, noisy, persistent, unrelenting children ever made (I've compared her to lots of others) and spending hours on end with her somehow fragments my brain. When she's at pre-school and I'm at the office, however, my mind seems to get back to being more like normal.

But that's not particularly relevant. Well, actually, it is, to me. I kind of wonder how many other women have this sort of thing to deal with, and and worry how often they might end up being labelled ditsy or foolish by patronising self-important MEN.

TrillianAstra · 15/05/2011 22:06

I made a comment and it disapeared - plaentas (placentae) are awesome. They are magical and freaky and amazing things. Slightly parastitic, but still cool.

PenguinArmy · 16/05/2011 01:03

For me I wasn't very effective in the first trimester, but in my last trimester was very productive, physically and mentally (wrote my PhD and was still climbing/cycling). I also had my viva when she was less than 2 months but had no problem doing the reading required and retaining all the information. However, working FT after while on no more than 2 hours of sleep at a time for months on end does come into things. But as someone else said, if a man said baby had rough night, everyone would be be fair enough. Me (in my work) not so much.

My inability to function very well was due to extreme fatigue so while not hormone related I feel it was indirectly pg related.

I hate that some people assume all pregnant people need to have their competency assessed while others trout out 'you're only pg not ill'. Why not trust women when they say they're fine or struggling a bit. Why does it have to be justified somehow. Especially when we know that pg like childbirth (and like so much of life) is not the same for all.

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