Baby brain may cause excessive weight gain in pregnancy

baby brain eating

Baby brain: the art of forgetting pretty much everything during pregnancy. Ironically, it’s one of those things everyone remembers about being pregnant. But could it also responsible for making mums-to-be put on too much weight?

Melbourne psychology lecturer Dr Melissa Hayden and PhD candidate Sasha Davies say that approximately half of all pregnant women gain more kilos than is considered healthy, which puts both mum and child at risk of complications during pregnancy and birth, as well as obesity and weight management issues in both the short and long term.

Dr. Hayden says previous studies of non-pregnant women have found that those who struggle with their weight can’t control their brain’s responses to high-calorie foods as effectively as those who don’t have weight issues.

“We think a similar response may occur during pregnancy, causing some women to gain weight excessively,” the Deakin University lecturer says.

So the university’s cognitive neuroscience and health psychology team is about to study whether ‘baby brain’ – which refers to reductions in some aspects of cognition, like memory, decision-making, and planning – plays a part in excessive weight gain during pregnancy.

The Baby Brain Study is now looking for Melbourne-based mums and mums-to-be who are currently not pregnant, but are planning to conceive in the next 1-12 months, to take part in a two-hour series of tests. Dr Hayden says the results from this world-first study could potentially benefit thousands of women

“By studying how pregnant women respond to food-related stimuli, we can begin to understand the relationship between self-regulation and decision-making during pregnancy and excessive weight gain during this life phase. This, in turn, will help to explain why some women struggle with healthy pregnancy weight gain,” she says.

To take part in the study, contact Sasha Davies on (03) 9246 8383 or Alternatively, visit the study’s website at or follow the Baby Brain Research team on Facebook

Michelle Rose

Michelle Rose

Michelle is a journalist and mum to two girls who are obsessed with dinosaurs, fairies, pirates and princesses in equal measure. She lives in Melbourne's east with her husband, daughters and a giant, untameable labradoodle. Michelle loves all things vegetarian, wine (it's a fruit) and online shopping.

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