TheConfidante In the Media
Welcome to Part Two discovering wondrous facts about the amazing women’s brain brought to you by neuroscientist and author Dr Sarah McKay.
Today I’m passing on research on a topic of women’s health I’ve personally solidly relied on for many years. Countless excuses have been based on this tag line as a solid and acceptable explanation for my human short comings. Peruse my extensive list of “stupid things I’ve done or forgotten to do”, you’ll find many reasons why under this category. It has been an acceptable fall back for the times when I’ve been a substandard wife who can’t remember what my point was in the first place, forgetful mother of “casual clothes day” and when I’ve referred to a client by the wrong name. This forgiving justification has been commonly used by the sisterhood in history for goodness knows how long however I’m devastated to reveal: Baby Brain Is Not a Thing!
“Surely not” the mothers of the Sunshine Coast gasp! I know, I also have needed to take time out to digest this shocking news. “How could this be?” you yell back at me. “You’re kidding me right?” you exclaim. Sorry ladies, you’ve bought into a stereotyped and cultural misconception! I can see all the hairy male types by now are completely exasperated and confused.
It’s timely I drop into this article, credible sources such as “Nature Neuroscience”, who published findings of an extensive and thorough study on first time mothers’ brains that were scanned before and after pregnancy. A computer program was able to automatically tell if a woman had been pregnant based on her brain scans. Here’s also what they found:
So why did I forget to get out of my pyjamas, eat nor cover myself after breastfeeding before answering the door? Researchers did see some evidence in small reductions in memory in the third trimester of pregnancy and just afterward. Lack of sleep due to discomfort, aching and nervous anticipation is a logical explanation for any forgetfulness here. There is also the notion of “primary maternal preoccupation” which means I would’ve been so focussed on my new little buddle of amazement to the exclusion of anything else. That poor courier man.
Shortcomings in the detail of MRI scans in humans require researchers to examine expectant rodents. Motherhood makes female rodents smarter as compared to their child-free sisters! Researchers suspect the same of humans. Neuropsychological tests consistently and surprisingly find that despite women’s belief of their poor cognition, they prove otherwise! Hey Mums, we are smarter than we thought so don’t buy into the cultural beliefs and stereotypes around your rollercoaster of emotions since giving birth.
One important takeaway from Dr McKay was the importance of thriving in large social groups benefiting from the watchful eye of more experienced mothers and grandmothers. Fast forward this to families in 2019 on the Sunshine Coast and you’ll find plenty first time mothers distant either emotionally or geographically from their birth mothers, frequently apart from their partner working long hours often away and isolated. Our village is missing! What is essential to a healthy brain and maternal wellbeing? Love and social connection.
Head to www.yourbrainhealth.com.au for your copy of The Women’s Brain and more. Listen to my interview with Dr Sarah McKay with Kristian from Salt106.5 on my podcast, “Is This Love?”
Joanne Wilson is a neuro psychotherapist, relationship specialist, radio co-host, workshop facilitator and guest speaker. Contact www.theconfidantecounselling.com or via email. Look out for my new podcast discussing these articles and more, "Is This Love?"
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Relationship Specialist for Individuals and Couples servicing areas including Caloundra, Noosa, Noosaville, Buderim, Mountain Creek, Gympie.