When your brain has too many tabs open…
Congratulations on first noticing this superpower! In case you haven’t yet realized your “temporary” superpower yet – read on to find more.
Though there are many people who believe that the pregnancy brain is just a myth, there are some who feel it is absolutely true. Pregnancy-induced brain fog is a true and really frustrating hallmark of pregnancy. If you suffer from the so-called “pregnancy brain”, then you may forget why you walked into the kitchen, where you left your keys, and phone, whether you turned off the stove, and maybe even your partner’s phone number. Some recent research suggests that pregnancy does have an impact on the brain. But is pregnancy brain real? Here’s a look at how pregnancy impacts the brain.
What Exactly Is “Pregnancy Brain?”
At some point during pregnancy, a woman may find herself feeling like her little bundle of joy has hijacked not only her body but also her mind. Pregnancy brain is just your hormones having some fun — this time at the expense of your memory. Quality -less sleep can cause you to be constantly zapped of energy which your brain needs to stay focused. Furthermore, all of those big and exciting changes going on in your life could have an impact on your ability to focus too.
In fact, research has actually shown that your brain really does function differently during pregnancy, increasing the side of your emotional skills which help you to connect with your newborn baby. And the kick counter will make you even more attached to your baby and help you understand what the pattern of kicks is. What’s more, believe it or not, your brain-cell volume actually decreases during the third trimester of pregnancy, which explains why you can’t remember what you just read about in that last paragraph. Not to worry, though — your brain will plump back up a few months after delivery.
Is pregnancy brain normal?
Forgetfulness is completely normal and extremely common during pregnancy. Research suggests that while well-rehearsed memory tasks, such as remembering the names and phone numbers of close family members, were unlikely to be affected, novel and challenging memory tasks were more susceptible. Having to recall five to six digits for a short amount of time, such as a new phone number, could become more difficult for expecting women. The good news is it is also temporary — you’ll have total recall again long before you start to have your “senior moments.” Let’s see what you can do about it.
● Take a breather: Do not blame yourself. Take a deep breath. Stress will only cloud your pregnancy brain more.
● Pen it down: If you need to remember to buy certain groceries, make a phone call, ask your doctor a question, or take your prenatal vitamin — leave a big note in an obvious place. You might also stash a notepad and pen in easy-to-remember spots like your purse, your car, and your bathroom.
● Tech to the rescue: Rely on calendar reminders on your phone to help keep you organized and less forgetful. You can even use the mind&mom pregnancy app to set your personalized reminders to perform your health checks, and daily chores, drink your water, take your pills, and do your workouts.
● Delegate and relax: If you have a lot of helping hands, you can delegate some jobs to others. Reduce the number of things you need to remember to ask people around you to get things done. Your earphones, chargers, and sunglasses are easy to find.
Let yourself have a good laugh about this airhead stage, and encourage your partner to do the same. Having a good sense of humor gives you a good memory to cherish for your later days. Who cares if you’ve left your earphones in the bathroom?
“One night, on finishing my cooking and cleaning chores, rang up my husband to check on him as he said he would be returning home late that night; I then went back to the hall and continued to nap watching a TV show. My husband then returned home late and was curious as to why I didn’t answer the phone the whole time. I then realized I had misplaced my phone somewhere. We searched the whole night but didn’t succeed. The next morning, back to my cooking ritual, I opened the freezer to get something – only to be astonished to see that I had left my phone in there the previous night. I still have a good laugh thinking about it and am sure it is a funny pregnancy brain act to cherish for the rest of my life” – Nisha
● Cuisine with choline: This mineral is the building block for a memory-forming brain chemical called acetylcholine. Researchers believe that eating plenty of choline-rich foods during pregnancy may help boost the function of your brain and your baby’s.
● Increase the omega-3s: DHA-rich foods (including pregnancy-safe fish like salmon) help support healthy brain function and development for both you and your baby.
● Keep calm and relax: Expect the haze to hang in during the first weeks to months after you give birth. Postpartum fatigue may take the place of hormones as the primary culprit, but that too shall pass.
What does the research say about the impact of pregnancy on the brain?
While not all studies agree, most evidence suggests that women do experience measurable declines in a variety of cognitive skills during pregnancy. Here’s a closer look at those changes.
1. Impacts on Memory
Studies were done comparing pregnant and postpartum women to healthy, non-pregnant controls on measures of memory. What the researchers discovered was that pregnant women experienced significant impairments in certain measures of memory, but not all.
Areas that were particularly impacted by pregnancy included free recall and working memory. Free recall is the ability to remember items from a list while working memory is a type of short-term memory that involves immediate conscious experiences. This explains, perhaps, why pregnant women sometimes report struggling to recall details such as names and dates, as well as that general “foggy” feeling that expecting mothers often experience.
2. Changes in Gray Matter
Interesting Fact: So, while pregnancy is linked to changes in both subjective and objective cognitive abilities, pregnancy actually leads to changes in the brain itself. In a recent study, they found that a woman has had babies by looking at her brain scans. One study found that grey matter actually shrinks in areas of the brain associated with processing and responding to social signals. This indicates a process of maturation and specialization, allowing women to become more focused and attuned to the needs of their infants.
Perhaps more surprising, mothers who reported feeling more awestruck and “in love” with their infants were much more likely to also display this mid-brain enlargement. The amount of gray matter volume changes also corresponded to how attached mothers were to their infants.
A word to take
Changes in the brain during pregnancy may lead to some memory and attention difficulties, but these changes also appear to have important benefits. Pregnancy leaves a mark on both the body and the brain, and emerging research suggests that some of these changes are enduring. So, if you find yourself feeling forgetful and inattentive during pregnancy, don’t worry, you’re not losing your mind. You’re just building a brain that is more responsive to the many demands of parenting. You can find answers to some common questions in the mind of a first-time mom here.