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Last Updated:  Thursday, 13 March, 2003, 15:17 GMT
Pregnancy doesn't make you scatty
Pregnant woman
Pregnancy is linked to poor concentration
There is little truth in the widely held idea that pregnancy reduces a woman's mental firepower, research has found.

Many people - including some midwives - believe that pregnancy has a damaging impact on memory and concentration.

A team of psychologists from the University of Sunderland asked pregnant women for their views - and found that many subscribed to the popular view.

But when the same women performed a series of mental tests they actually performed no worse than women who were not carrying a child.

The researchers, led by Dr Ros Crawley, compared the performance of 15 pregnant women an 14 who were not.

They conducted tests twice during pregnancy and at six months and 12 months after birth.

Both groups were also asked to rate how they felt their memory and attention had changed.

Dr Crawley said: "Even though the performance of the two groups did not differ on the cognitive tests, the pregnant women strongly felt that their memory and attention was worse than before they became pregnant."

Mild effects

Dr Crawley said it was possible that pregnancy did have a very mild effect on the brain that was so subtle that it could not be picked up by the tests.

"Alternatively, the women are mistaken and the perceptions are caused by negative mood swings, or cultural expectations of impairments which make women more aware of forgetting things and attributing such mistakes to their pregnancy," she said.

Francine Allen, of the Royal College of Midwives, said the idea that pregnancy slowed women down mentally was part of an old-fashioned theory called the 'Quintessence of Pregnancy.'

"It is a rather condescending attitude," she said.

"I find that women are often at their peak during pregnancy. But women do get very tired when they are pregnant, and perhaps this leads to the perception that they are more forgetful."

The research was presented at the British Psychological Society annual conference in Bournemouth.

Mothers get memory boost
11 Nov 99 |  Science/Nature

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