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Uncovering the Pregnancy-Brain and Mom-Brain Myth

If you ever care to eavesdrop on a conversation between two mothers, expectant or not, you will undoubtably witness both women at some point of the conversation struggling to put words to their feelings or completely loose their train of thought. To the outside observer who has never experienced motherhood- this scene is likely an entertaining one. However, to us mothers who frequently have this experience; the scene makes us chuckle or cringe with familiarity. Within our souls there lingers a suppressed, unspoken fear, that perhaps we are in fact loosing our minds and may never regain the prenatal firepower of our brains.


One day while breastfeeding my son, I happened upon an article written by Dr. Pat Shipman, an anthropologist at Pennsylvania State University. The title, "Why Is Human Childbirth So Painful?" immediately (and obviously) peaked my interest as a doula and former academic. In the article, Dr. Shipman writes, "the prolonged period of breastfeeding needed by a human baby is the most energetically demanding period of a female's life. A mother may even allocate her own brain during pregnancy, losing some 4 percent of its volume to meet the energetic demands of her baby's brain..."(Shipman 427).


Dr. Shipman's article relieved my anxious soul. There was science behind this strange phenomenon. I wasn't loosing my mind! (Or rather there was finally proof that I actually was!)


Albeit Dr. Shipman's research only involved pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, I've had adoptive mothers tell me that they experience these same moments of brain fog. Although I may not have a PhD or research to backup my conclusion-I hypothesize nonetheless. Child bearing and rearing is exhausting and demanding because our bodies and minds instinctually prioritize the needs of our little ones. So give yourself a little grace- take care of your needs for nourishment, rest, chocolate, and caffeine. You may be loosing your mind but at least there are millions of other women loosing 4 percent of their brain volume with you!


Sources:

Shipman, Pat. “Why Is Human Childbirth So Painful?” American Scientist, Nov. 2013, www.researchgate.net/publication/269821415_Why_Is_Childbirth_So_Painful.

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