Scientists confirm “baby brain” is nature’s way of trolling pregnant mums

Pregnant mum on phone

Okay, we admit they didn’t exactly confirm the trolling bit, but they did confirm the foggy head known as “baby brain” which occurs during pregnancy is an actual scientifically proven phenomenon, and they have some ideas on why this may occur.

Four out of five

Four out of five pregnant women experience “baby brain” and while this is NOT a reason to assume expectant mums are operating at a sub-standard level, it’s definitely something we can better understand in our quest to support mums-to-be. 

The science-y team on this new Australian study have stressed that further investigation on “baby brain” is needed. Their findings are NOT a reason to dismiss or diminish the mental capacities of expectant women, but rather more insight into the experience of pregnancy. 

The Deakin University team undertook a meta-analysis of 20 studies on pregnant women, and their findings are super-interesting. The research covered over 1200 ladies, and they found that overall “cognitive functioning was poorer in pregnant women than in non-pregnant women.”

“Significantly reduced”

Yup. The struggle is real for pregnant mums, Deakin University confirm in a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

“General cognitive functioning, memory, and executive functioning were significantly reduced during the third trimester of pregnancy, but not during the first two trimesters,” the study authors say.

These changes began manifesting early in pregnancy, but were most evident in the final trimester.

“The declines start to happen between the first and the second trimester, and then look like they stabilise … but are most obvious in the third trimester,” senior author Associate Professor Linda Byrne said, the ABC reports.

“Not quite as on the ball”

Professor Byrne explains that this so-called “baby brain” often resulted in minor lapses, rather than diminished performance on more important tasks. In fact, most people wouldn’t even twig that the brain fog was rolling in, according to Professor Byrne.

“‘Baby brain’ is most likely to be noticed by mothers-to-be and those closest to them, with women remaining within normal ranges of memory and cognitive function,” she said. “It will be more a feeling they have that they’re not quite as on the ball as they normally are.”

Professor Byrne says one “baby brain” theory is that the brain may be diverting resources to other important tasks, and letting minor ones slide from time to time. This might make remembering minor things and multi-tasking more of a challenge for mums-to-be.

“It looks like the reason pregnant women have grey matter reduction is because they’re probably recruiting those areas to more important areas associated with the business of child rearing — so things like bonding, and social cognition,” she said.

That said, there’s more work to be done.

“The impact of these effects on the quality of life and everyday functioning of pregnant women requires further investigation,” Associate Professor Byrne said.

Be a guinea pig!

The research team are keen to delve deeper into this phenomenon, and are hoping to enlist the help of expectant mums for further investigation.

“If you or anyone you know would like to participate in this study, please visit or email,” Sasha Davies, lead author and PhD candidate at Deakin University invites.

If you’re keen to help solve the mysteries of  “baby brain”, there’s your chance!


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