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Women Are Smarter After Giving Birth

Every now and then I read a headline along these lines and it makes me so happy. Today the news comes from a small but enthusiastic study showing that women’s brains grow in the period after birth.

Using brain scans of women right after birth and then again four months later, researchers at Yale University and the University of Michigan found expanded areas of activity postpartum in several areas of the brain.

This flies in the face of long-held notions that mothers of young babies are spaced out and absent-minded; that they are under the influence of “mommy brain.” There’s actually a good book called The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter that pretty exhaustively dispels the myth of the bumbling new mom, but people still joke about it. Maybe that’s because there are some areas where we do temporarily lose some cognitive ground. 

We do tend to become more forgetful about some things. ”Mothers may feel more forgetful regarding things which are not baby-related, considering all the demands and changes they experience in their life during the first few months postpartum,” said lead researcher, Pilyoung Kim.

But for the most part women who have just given birth are really acutely aware of what’s going on. Which makes perfect sense to me. It’s a time when you have a lot of responsibility and a lot to learn. Fast. I know a lot about childbirth and I’m always explaining to people that though a women in very active and hard labor may look really out of it, she knows exactly what’s going on. A women in this state is highly attuned to her environment.

It must be related to the bonding and protective hormones flooding our system that makes us suddenly able to absorb and process lots of information. Whatever it is, I am certain that mothers of babies are plenty smart and I’m always happy to embrace a study that “confirms” this.

photo: Beth and Anth/Flickr

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