19 March 2008

Pregnancy brain

Headline (3 March): Babies can cause 'momnesia'

Headline (today): Pregnancy makes women quicker, smarter

Interesting. The subject of 'pregnancy brain' annoys me to no end. I have no doubt that pregnant women change their priorities in preparation for motherhood; recent research has shown that fluctuations in hormones affect the ways in which pregnant women think as they change their focus from themselves to their babies. Hanging out the washing or remembering a friend's birthday can drop down on the list of priorities as thinking about birth starts to eclipse the things that would have once been important.

Nevertheless, 'pregnancy brain' only further pathologises pregnancy as a condition to managed. Similar to representations of women as chaotic and irrational during menstruation or menopause, the suggestion that women similarly 'lose it' as they become mothers more deeply entrenches negative cultural stereotypes about women and their reproductive bodies.

However, today new research supposedly suggests that pregnancy makes women 'smarter'. Whereas hormones are pregnant women's downfall in earlier reports, this latest report suggests a reservoir of hormones released during pregnancy enacts permanent brain change. Basically, alot of estrogen makes women better mothers; they become more visually aware and perhaps unsurprisingly, strengthens their survival instinct. However, here is the kicker. This new research is based on rats...

Okay, maybe I'm missing something here but pregnant women are not rats. Therefore, I find it pretty ridiculous that a legitimate research group could even conceive of making such a huge scientific leap. Not only are the brains of humans and rats significantly different, the scientists only use unnamed 'observational studies' as evidence to confirm the same reaction in new mothers. The authors of the study argue that if they can replicate this hormone reaction in 'older' women, perhaps they can 'treat' menopause (again, like it's a disease).

Sources: http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,23402325-5005961,00.html

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