We have all heard the old wives’ tale of women experiencing ‘baby brain’ during pregnancy. Symptoms are thought to include forgetting things, losing your train of thought or having trouble with planning.

Recent research from Deakin University, published in the Medical Journal of Australia has looked at the scope of data across 20 studies, involving more than 700 pregnant women and found that ‘baby brain’ is indeed a measurable phenomenon for women, particularly in their third trimester. Cognitive skills such as problem solving, planning capabilities and memory were all found to be effected.

The data indicates that the changes are subtle and often not detectable by anyone else. The decline in cognitive function is not likely to impair work capacity or the ability to complete complex tasks; rather it affects simple things like remembering appointments or birthdays.

‘Baby brain’ is not an uncommon phenomenon by any stretch of the imagination, with four out of five women experiencing reduced cognitive function. Women often describe themselves as not being on the ball, or not being as sharp as they would normally be.

The reason behind the phenomenon is not known, however there is a measurable reduction in the grey matter of the brain during pregnancy. The volume of grey matter correlates positively with the ability of that particular region of the brain. For example, the number of years of musical training correlates with the density of grey matter in the part of the brain that is known for music skills.

Another common symptom often evident during the third trimester is increased levels of fatigue. Many women also experience a tremendous level of tiredness in their first trimester. Fatigue in the early stages of pregnancy can be attributed to the effort that goes into manufacturing the placenta, whilst in the third trimester the extra weight, the racing thoughts of all the “things to do” before the baby comes, restless legs and the discomfort of sleeping with a watermelon strapped to the front of your body can take its toll.

For more information on what to expect during pregnancy, visit the health direct website.