Two-thirds of all Alzheimer’s patients in the United States are women. This vast divide has baffled experts for many decades. They can only explain it with the fact that women live a lot longer than men and advanced age is one of the precursors of Alzheimer’s disease. Women are inadvertently more prone to dementia. The condition affects 46.8 million worldwide. More research is being conducted in this area. Pregnancy may also have something to do with it.
The reality of Pregnancy Brain
Many women start experiencing memory lapses during pregnancy and consequently become forgetful. It becomes perfectly reasonable to forget things they read just an hour or so ago; conversations become weird as they forget commonly used words and the inability to find everyday objects like car keys and wallets becomes a daily occurrence for some pregnant women. Even after giving birth, they feel somehow ‘dimmer’ for several months, reporting decreased ability to focus on tasks at hand.
Both the scientific community as well as the common man will understand that pregnancy affects women not only physically but also mentally and emotionally.
While pregnancy affects each and every organ, the brain gets affected the most. The very structure of this organ changes during pregnancy, with studies showing that a pregnant woman’s brain shrinks in size as well. The grey matter in the brain is primarily responsible for all the primary functions of the body, especially cognition, emotions, speech, memory, and decision-making abilities. That’s why it’s shrinkage can have severe consequences on a woman’s cognitive functioning, and dementia is one of them.
So yes, pregnancy brain is a very real thing, and this Australian study further proves it. More than 700 pregnant women were observed along with 500 non-pregnant women.
Pregnancy can also be your savior
There is encouraging news for pregnant women who are worried about their mental health. While pregnancy brain remains a possibility, the good news is that the effects of dementia wear off after giving birth. And what’s even better is that there are now studies that suggest that pregnancy helps reduce the risk of dementia in the long run.
This case-control, cross-sectional study of more than 130 elderly British senior women evaluated the potential connection between pregnancy history and risk of Alzheimer’s. Findings showed that the number of months spent in pregnancy, especially the first trimester, can predict the risk of Alzheimer’s quite effectively.
So, in the long term, it seems that motherhood protects women from dementia
This could simply be a result of increased estrogen exposure or something else altogether. Researchers hypothesized that the stronger immune system of pregnant women, as well as the hormonal changes that occur in the first trimester of pregnancy, may be responsible for this pronounced reduction of dementia risks.
New studies such as these offer surprisingly opposite conclusions about pregnancy and its relationship with dementia.
Risk of developing dementia
The study mentioned above found that the more children a woman bears, the lesser is her risk of developing dementia. On the other hand, other studies reveal that women with more than five children may get Alzheimer’s or dementia earlier. Some research also shows that women who’ve had miscarriages are more at risk for dementia.
However, the fact remains that while unclear, there is very much a link between pregnancy and dementia.
These findings shouldn’t give women who’ve had multiple births, any cause for concern just yet because there are way too many unanswered questions about dementia.
Dementia is a progressive condition that gets worse with time. Simply put, it is a brain disorder that leads to a continual loss of brain function. There are many types of dementia, but Alzheimer’s disease is the most common of all. It affects 62% of all dementia diagnoses.
We mentioned the changes in the brain structure earlier. This could very well be the cause of pregnancy-related dementia in women. There is a lack of effort in finding new preventative measures for dementia. . You can always visit DementiaTalk for the latest news about the condition and its prevention.
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