The Truth About Pregnancy Brain

Sporadic moments of forgetfulness and general fogginess during pregnancy is completely normal, but can be frustrating. Pregnancy brain, baby brain, or “momnesia” is very real, but it doesn’t actually change your brain. Regardless, any pregnancy book—or pregnant mom—will tell you about it, and there is evidence from research showing memory deficits in pregnant women. 

What Does Pregnancy Brain Feel Like?

Have you ever walked into a room, stopped, and stood there for several minutes because you forgot what you went in there for? Pregnancy brain is like doing that 10 times a day. 

Some studies have shown that there could be evolutionary reasons behind this mental fog. From an evolutionary standpoint, this kind of memory impairment may be helpful—the woman forgets about other things, and focuses all her mental energy on caring for her new baby. Pregnant women and new moms spend so much time thinking about the changes their baby will bring that their short-term memory is bound to suffer. 

What Causes Pregnancy Brain?

It’s normal to have memory lapses or feel overly forgetful whenever you’re exceptionally busy, stressed out, or running on not enough sleep. Pregnancy, of course, tends to involve all of these causes. When you aren’t getting enough sleep, and you’re still trying to multitask, no one’s memory is as sharp as usual. Not to mention, surging hormone levels and brand new priorities help explain pregnancy fog. You have between 15 and 40 times more progesterone and estrogen in your system during pregnancy, and these hormones affect all kinds of neurons in your brain. 

By the time a woman gives birth, there are large surges of oxytocin that cause the uterus to contract and the body to produce milk—this hormone also affects your brain circuits. It might sound scary, but your neurons and circuits are completely fine! Pregnancy rearranges what gets your attention, that’s all. Your overall brain function isn’t changing, only your priorities are! 

A British study found that hormones can really affect a pregnant woman’s spatial memory, which includes remembering where things are. 

How You Can Treat It

  1. If you aren’t feeling as sharp as usual, try your best to simplify other areas of your life—everything is about to get more complicated, so anything you can minimize will help! 
  2. While it’s tricky with a newborn, the most effective thing you can do for your pregnancy brain is to get better sleep. Sleep deprivation is a serious contributing factor after your baby arrives. Women can accumulate up to 700 hours of sleep debt in the first year after having a baby. This causes your brain to function only for caring for your baby and not much else. Most moms find that their pregnancy brain goes away within a week of getting better sleep!
  3. Get in the habit of writing things down! Questions you have for your doctor, things you have to get done, ideas you have—anything that you know you’ll forget, write it down in a central place you can refer back to. 
  4. Above all else, keep your sense of humor. Pregnancy brain is normal and natural, so try not to get frustrated with yourself. Of course, if your memory problems are more severe—like you’re forgetting to put your baby in their car seat—you should seek help. Otherwise, though, it’s completely normal. 

For more information, tips, and maternity advice, contact Regional Medical Center today!