Study suggests mothers' brains shrink 5 percent during pregnancy - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Study suggests mothers' brains shrink 5 percent during pregnancy, Las Vegas doctor weighs in

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A pregnant woman holds her stomach (FOX5). A pregnant woman holds her stomach (FOX5).

For new mothers who feel sluggish, can’t focus and are just having a hard time getting back into a routine, there may be a medical explanation.

It’s called Postnatal Depletion. There’s some new research behind it. The term was coined by an Australian doctor, so it’s not a widely used medical term in the U.S. yet, but it’s a topic moms and doctors are talking about more and more.

Vanessa Crum gave birth to her little bundle of joy seven months ago. Since then, she’s noticed a difference in her ability to focus, even remember simple things.

“Not to say that it makes you feel not as smart, but it takes a lot of brain power to process everything around you like getting a schedule with the baby,” she said.

Crum chalked it up to being a new mom.

“When I went back to work I could tell, ‘Where did my memory go? Where’s the routine I had?’” she said.

But some doctors said there is a name for this condition: Postnatal Depletion.

“Is the term out there? Yes,” said UMC OBGYN Dr. Matthew Grolle. “Do patients know about it? Yes, they do.”

One of the biggest claims in the study is that a mother’s brain shrinks 5% during pregnancy.

“We’ve actually had a couple patients come in and ask, ‘Is my brain changing? Is my brain going to change during the postpartum period?’”

But not every doctor is on board with the research yet.

“I can’t imagine the brain is actually shrinking,” Dr. Grolle said.

And he does not believe the trend would continue with the birth of each child.

“It wouldn't shrink another 5% and another 5% after that,” he said. “But it does makes sense to me that those neuro-connections in your gray matter are strengthened so that you can become a better mother as time continues.”

So whether you call it postnatal depletion or not, doctors said there’s no question a baby changes everything, including your brain.

It’s all the more reason to thank your mother, this Mother’s Day.

“Shout out to all the moms,” Crum said. “It's a hard job to have!”

“Love your mom. She changed her brain for you!” Dr. Grolle added.

Another part of the study suggests the placenta drains the mother of essential nutrients. Dr. Grolle does not believe that’s true. But he added that a lot more research needs to be done.  

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