The Fallible Mind

Emotion, perception, and other tricks of the brain

“Baby Brain” and Addled Mothers–To–Be

Maternal hormones wreak havoc on cognition and road accidents

Strange as it seems, expectant mothers are prone to all sorts of accidents. Dr. Donald Redelmeier in Toronto, writing in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, wished to know if pregnant women were more likely to be involved in car crashes. He looked at pregnant women who sought ER visits following a car accident in which they had been the driver compared to both women who had visited the hospital in the three years before becoming pregnant, and in the year following delivery.

Dr. Redelmeier found that being pregnant made a woman 42% more likely to be involved in a serious car crash. Being pregnant turns out to be just as risky as having sleep apnea and choking oneself awake during the night. Multiple factors were entertained as a reason why pregnant women should be in their unique situation. Dr. Redelmeier concluded that there is something to the condition colloquially known as “baby brain” that affects expectant mothers. They can be tired, nauseated, anxious, and distracted by the upcoming big event. He suggests that reminding them of road safety should be a piece of their prenatal care.

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Finally, Dr. Redelmeier cautions against young husbands taking over driving duties. Men in that age group turn out to be far more dangerous behind the wheels that their pregnant wives.

Richard E. Cytowic, M.D., is a neurologist best known for bringing synesthesia back to mainstream science. His latest book is Wednesday Is Indigo Blue.

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