BACKGROUND: The purpose of this investigation was to determine if reproductive experience is associated with cumulative effects on human memory performance during pregnancy and if these effects persist into the postpartum period.
METHODS: Verbal recall memory performance was assessed in 254 women four times during pregnancy and at 3 months postpartum. The relation between parity and memory function was evaluated with hierarchical linear modeling and analysis of covariance (ANCOVA).
RESULTS: The data indicate that the previously documented adverse effects of pregnancy on memory performance are compounded with successive pregnancies. During gestation and postpartum, multiparity was associated with poorer memory function, and these effects did not appear to be due to differences in maternal demographics, depressive symptoms, or sleep quality.
CONCLUSIONS: Animal models demonstrate that the effects of reproduction on brain structure and function are both cumulative and enduring. However, little is known about the influence of reproductive experience on the human female brain. These findings provide evidence that in humans, reproduction is associated with striking and perhaps persisting changes in cognitive function.
Glynn, LM (2012). Increasing parity is associated with cumulative effects on memory. Journal of Women’s Health, 21, 1038-1048.
Mary Ann Liebert
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