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Placenta Brain

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I used to call my lapses in memory "pregnancy brain." Then I gave birth.

woman scratching head

Jeanne Sager: I quickly realized that not being able to remember where I put the pacifier five seconds after I dropped it into the boiling water for sanitizing wasn't really my pregnancy's fault. After all, my little bun was no longer in the oven, but crawling past it -- bound for the dog's bowl, where she'd find something else to stick in her mouth if I didn't find that blasted binky.

So I did what any good mother would do: I adapted. Henceforth, I began referring to my condition as "placenta brain." As in, "My brain was sucked out around the time I was passing the placenta." My theory was, I was so busy watching the nurses clean up my newborn at the time, I never knew what they were taking out along with that little sack of nutrients. And this vegetarian wasn't going to ask to see her placenta -- or take it home for cooking.

So this new study in the British Journal of Psychology that contends that scientists "found no evidence of persistent cognitive deterioration being associated with pregnancy or motherhood" is really cramping my style. They've even gone so far as to tell the BBC that "obstetricians, family doctors and midwives may need to use the findings from this study to promote the fact that 'placenta brain' is not inevitable."

First they steal my name for it, and now they're stealing the whole excuse away from me?

Completed in Australia, the study says we've been conditioned by past studies to believe that pregnancy affects the brain. So naturally we believe it -- and then our brains go on the fritz. The inference is that it's time to just stop believing.

But before you all take your balls and run home from the playground (that is, if you can remember where you kicked them), hear this: All those strong admonishments to ignore the hype have been overshadowing our best excuse of all. While they were trying to figure out how to disprove "pregnancy brain," they admitted that moms are exhausted. And what does exhaustion bring? That's right, folks: It brings a lack of concentration -- which is the key to forming memories.

So let me get my addled mother's mind around this: It isn't the pregnancy that's making my brain forget my in-laws' phone number. But it IS pregnancy -- and subsequent motherhood -- that's making me so blessed tired that I can't concentrate. And because I'm not concentrating, I'm not forming memories. And since I can't form memories -- wait, what was I saying again?

I can promise not to call it "placenta brain" anymore. But will you tell me how to make a cranky preschooler go to sleep without the doll she left at Oma and Opa's house? Because man, am I tired.

next: Fox's 'Family Guy' Takes on Sarah Palin by Appearing to Mock Her Son Trig's Down Syndrome
5 comments so far | Post a comment now
Swati Bharteey February 15, 2010, 8:34 AM

HILARIOUS - and I totally disagree with the study …my random memory loss and flakiness are all the proof I need…because it can’t be just me :-)!

tennmom February 15, 2010, 7:22 PM

I relate, too!
I thought I was in the clear after I had my first baby, but then realized all but about 500 calories I took in each day went to nurse my constantly nursing daughter. I didn’t have many calories left for memory with my first or 2nd daughters.
They are 10 & 12 now. I would think my memory would have improved, but no, I still have to write all of their projects, reports, homework on my cal, as well as those of my husband. Heck, I ask my older daughter to remind me of the things I have to do. I also depend on her to keep me from getting turned around in hotels, malls, and at Disney World. :)

Organic Motherhood with Cool Whip February 16, 2010, 7:11 PM

Awesome post. I think I’m going to blame my mommy brain on my discarded placenta from now on. You are a genius. BTW I have a bunch of posts on my blog about placentas, placenta-eating, etc. I don’t know why I am so obsessed with them, but I think they are fascinating.

Golf Clubs September 14, 2010, 10:39 AM

In related news, the PGA voted Tiger Woods Player of the Year .. sources are unsure whether they were actually referring to golf though!

Fashion Merchandising October 1, 2010, 4:48 AM

As a member of the fashion marketplace, I salute you. I’m a Senior Lecturer in the Cultural Studies department at Central Saint Martins exactly where I’m also doing work using a project for the market. Again, thank you for writing this post.

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