Moms, have you heard of the term baby brain? Have you felt foggy, easily frazzled and forgetful after having a baby?
A new study from researchers in the Netherlands attributes this feeling of having inadequate intellect and memory to a woman's shrinking brain after giving birth. It's not, however, an entirely a bad thing for moms.
Experts at Leiden University published their findings on moms' shrinking brains in the journal Nature Neuroscience. They learned the volume of grey matter in a woman's brain actually decreases during pregnancy, thus affecting some functions.
Gray matter determines the IQ and intellect, as well as the processing and retention of information. The more significant the volume of grey matter in the brain, the higher the person's IQ is, as per another Nature report.
This isn't to say, however, that a mom's brain after having babies makes her less intelligent. It appears losing grey matter is important for moms because, while brain processing diminishes in sharpness, moms gain more maternal instincts.
A woman's brain shrinks after pregnancy as biology enables her to become a more efficient mom to her child. "Loss of [grey matter] volume does not necessarily translate to a loss of function," the study's co-lead author Elseline Hoekzema said, as per CNN. "These changes [to the brain] could - at least partially - reflect a selective fine-tuning of connections into a more specialized and efficient neural network," she added.
Dr. Robert Froemke, a neuroscientist from Langone Medical Center in New York, tells Healthline a mom's shrinking brains could be likened to the body doing its spring cleaning. It is its way of preparing women for years of childcare.
"It's making things more organized, streamlined, coherent to prepare mothers for the complexity and urgency of childcare," the expert said. In short, "baby brain" actually makes a mother more responsive to the needs of her baby. Never mind if once in a while she forgets where she left her car keys.