Having a baby may improve a woman's memory, according to scientists.
The baby brain phenomenon – which suggests that new mothers are constantly suffering from short-term memory loss – could actually be a fable. In fact, women's memories appear to improve after having a baby, according to research by Melissa Santiago from Carlos Albizu University, Miami.
Santiago tested the visual and spatial memory (referred to as "visuospatial) of 70 Hispanic women. Half of the women had never been pregnant and the other half were first-time mothers of children aged between 10 and 24 months. The findings showed that mothers scored higher than their childless participants in the tests.
Visuospatial memory has to do with how observant you are and how easily you are able to retain information about your environment.
To evaluate their memory, Santiago showed the women a card that had six symbols on it for about 10 seconds at a time and then asked them to draw what they remembered.
The results showed that while both non-moms and moms appeared to recall the same amount of symbols when the test was conducted a first time, the moms scored better when the test was conducted a second and third time.
In another test, the women were shown a greater assortment of symbols and asked to recall which symbols were in the former test. Once again the new moms outperformed the others.
While her findings seem to suggest that moms remember more information, Santiago added that a bigger test over a longer trial period with more women from different backgrounds needs to be conducted first to verify her findings.
"You don't have to feel that because you have kids, your memory isn't the same," Santiago said to her audience at a meeting of the American Psychological Association.
While previous studies have shown that women tend to be more forgetful while expecting – with some claiming that the brain shrinks up to as much as five percent – others have countered the theory and shown that a woman's memory isn't affected at all.
According to Santiago, the brain returns to its normal state six months after childbirth which could explain the stronger memory as the brain recovers.