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Cognition in pregnancy and motherhood: prospective cohort study

  • Helen Christensen (a1), Liana S. Leach (a1) and Andrew Mackinnon (a2)
Abstract
Background

Research has reported that pregnant women and mothers become forgetful. However, in these studies, women are not recruited prior to pregnancy, samples are not representative and studies are underpowered.

Aims

The current study sought to determine whether pregnancy and motherhood are associated with brief or long-term cognitive deterioration using a representative sample and measuring cognition during and before the onset of pregnancy and motherhood.

Method

Women aged 20–24 years were recruited prospectively and assessed in 1999, 2003 and 2007. Seventy-six women were pregnant at follow-up assessments, 188 became mothers between study waves and 542 remained nulliparous.

Results

No significant differences in cognitive change were found as a function of pregnancy or motherhood, although late pregnancy was associated with deterioration on one of four tests of memory and cognition.

Conclusions

The hypothesis that pregnancy and motherhood are associated with persistent cognitive deterioration was not supported. Previous negative findings may be a result of biased sampling.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Helen Christensen, Centre for Mental Health Research, The Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia. Email: Helen.Christensen@anu.edu.au
Footnotes
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The PATH Through Life Project is funded by NHMRC Grant number 418039. H.C. is funded by NHMRC Fellowship number 525411 and L.L. by NHMRC PhD Scholarship number 3451048.

Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes
References
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  • EISSN: 1472-1465
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Cognition in pregnancy and motherhood: prospective cohort study

  • Helen Christensen (a1), Liana S. Leach (a1) and Andrew Mackinnon (a2)
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eLetters

RE: Cognition in pregnancy and motherhood: prospective cohort study

Zevia M Schneider, semi-retired academic, Independent consultant
18 June 2015

Dear Sir, in the interests of those wishing to pursue the study of cognition in pregnancy, I wish to correct a statement by H Christensen in her article in the British Journal of Psychiatry 2010, 196(2):126-132 Cognition in pregnancy and motherhood: prospective cohort study.

The statement (line 24/26) 'No study of human mothers has collected or examined data on cognitive performance prior to pregnancy' is incorrect and misleading. I completed a doctoral study titled: 'Thinking and Learning in Pregnancy' for a PhD award (Monash University, Melbourne, Australia) in 1989.

The research design was a longitudinal, repeated measure single case design with 33 subjects. Four women completed 4 and 5 weekly cognitive learning tests prior to conception; the remaining 28 women completed between 6 and 24 weekly cognitive learning tests prior to conception. Weekly testing was conducted throughout their pregnancies. Each week subjects completed 4 psychological learning tests; also a comprehension test every other week. Additional measures were used to provide information also weekly concerning the subjects' motivation, mood, and interest in participating in the test sessions.
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Conflict of interest: None Declared

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