It’s a widely held belief that new mothers suffer from ‘baby brain’ and are prone to forgetfulness and foggy thinking.

But a study suggests this may be a myth after finding those with young babies have just as good a memory as non-mothers and are as mentally sharp.

However, it’s just that mothers are more likely to believe they have a bad memory – perhaps because society has convinced them they are suffering from ‘baby brain’.

Researchers recruited 43 first-time mothers with babies aged ten to 13 months and compared them to 43 non-mothers of the same age, with a similar level of education.

Both groups undertook a series of tests, taking 90 minutes, including memorising lists of words, repeating lists of numbers forwards and backwards, and code-cracking the link between a set of numbers and symbols.

Results showed there was no significant difference in memory, cognitive function or mental processing speed between the mothers and non-mothers

Results showed there was no significant difference in memory, cognitive function or mental processing speed between the mothers and non-mothers

With more to remember, they have more opportunities to forget things, so may wrongly think their memories have worsened

With more to remember, they have more opportunities to forget things, so may wrongly think their memories have worsened

Results, published in the Journal of Women’s Health, showed there was no significant difference in memory, cognitive function or mental processing speed between the mothers and non-mothers.

But the mothers believed they had worse memories, when asked a set of questions about their cognitive performance.

Authors suggest this may simply be because women with babies have a larger daily to-do list, such as the nappy bag, change of clothes, bottle, snacks and toys they need to pack every time they have to leave the house.

With more to remember, they have more opportunities to forget things, so may wrongly think their memories have worsened.

Researcher Dr Sharna Jamadar, from the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health at Monash University in Australia, said: ‘There is such a focus on baby brain that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Women with babies do have a lot going on, so will be more aware when they get things wrong. 

‘But there is no measurable difference between mothers and non-mothers. Women should realise memory lapses are more about how much they have to manage and not something wrong with their brain.’

The results also showed mothers’ perception of baby brain may be linked to their wellbeing – their level of sleep, anxiety and depression. Mothers who scored worse on this were more likely to believe they had a poor memory.

Women may also believe they have baby brain due to the high stakes of motherhood, authors suggest. A memory lapse when you have a baby can have more serious consequences, such as being stranded without a change of nappy or forgetting a special teddy bear, leading to hours of crying.

Dr Jamadar said: ‘Motherhood can be really hard and women who want to be super-organised feel disappointed in themselves when they get things wrong. 

‘So motherhood may make women more sensitive to minor memory or concentration lapses which perhaps would have otherwise been ignored or considered inconsequential before they had a child.’

This post first appeared on Dailymail.co.uk

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