Motherhood, no doubt, is an emotional roller coaster filled with ups and downs. It brings about physical and emotional changes in a person. While you may anticipate experiencing sore breasts, a growing baby bump, mood swings, and fatigue during pregnancy, pregnancy can also have an impact on your cognitive abilities. Some pregnant women may experience forgetfulness or mommy brain fog, which is characterized by difficulties with memory, concentration, and absent-mindedness. Despite how it sounds, “mommy brain” is a legitimate medical condition with support from science.
What Is Mommy Brain?
The term “mommy brain” refers to a type of mental fogginess that takes place during pregnancy and in the months following the delivery of a child. The concept of a mommy brain is often linked to hormonal fluctuations that occur during pregnancy and after childbirth.
Pregnancy involves significant hormonal changes, including increased levels of estrogen, progesterone, and other hormones. These hormonal shifts are necessary for sustaining pregnancy and preparing the body for childbirth. However, they can also have effects on the brain, impacting cognitive functions such as memory, attention, and emotional regulation.
Is Mommy Brain Real?
It is true, and science backs it up. Up to 80% of pregnant women experience some subjective memory loss, and postpartum women report comparable symptoms1. Researchers have found that the process of adult hippocampal neurogenesis slows down during and after pregnancy.
This process involves the birth of new neurons in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that helps with thinking and feeling. This might be a contributing factor to the shifts in the emotional and cognitive states of the mother2.
A 2018 review of 20 studies on the pregnancy brain found that pregnant women did worse than non-pregnant women on tests of memory and executive function. This suggests that the part of the brain that helps you plan your day, remember details, keep track of time, and solve problems might change while you are pregnant.
When Does Mommy Brain Start?
While there are no definitive studies pinpointing the exact onset of pregnancy brain, both research and personal experiences from mothers suggest that it is most pronounced during the third trimester.
When Does Pregnancy Brain End?
The experience of mental fog during pregnancy can persist for several weeks or even months following childbirth. Researchers discovered that GM reductions persisted for at least two years after delivery.
Hormonal shifts and sleep deprivation, for example, are known to persist even after a woman gives birth. While you may feel better quickly after giving birth, the symptoms of mommy brain are likely to linger for some time.
What Does Mommy Brain Feel Like
Some mothers may suffer from cognitive changes or forgetfulness during pregnancy or the postpartum period; the term “mommy brain” is used colloquially to describe these symptoms.
These changes may not affect everyone, and not all mothers will show the same symptoms. The intensity of it also varies. Because it is so subtle, some mothers might not even notice it.
Ten symptoms that are frequently linked to “mommy brain” are listed below:
- Becomes forgetful: Forgetfulness, the challenge of recalling information or completing tasks that were previously easy to remember, is one of the classic signs of mommy brain during pregnancy.
- Problems with multitasking: The challenge of effectively keeping track of multiple tasks simultaneously
- Lack of focus: Finding it challenging to concentrate on tasks for extended periods.
- Problems with Word Retrieval: Word retrieval issues refer to the challenge of finding the appropriate words or experiencing moments where the desired word is on the “tip of the tongue.”
- Misplacing things: Moms with mommy brains often find themselves misplacing objects or struggling to remember where they have been placed.
- Feel foggy: The term “fogginess” describes the feeling of having less mental clarity or cloudiness
- Disorientation with time: Being unaware of the passing of time or losing track of it.
- Trouble taking in fresh knowledge: Having trouble taking in and remembering new information.
- Issues with decision-making: Experiencing difficulty with decision-making and feeling overwhelmed by the multitude of choices available. This situation is proving to be quite challenging.
- Mood swings: Hormonal changes and sleep deprivation can contribute to mood swings and emotional fluctuations.
What Causes Mommy Brain
One of the main causes of the brain drain that so many new moms face is the strain of taking care of an infant, managing housework, and office work while also lacking enough sleep. However, research has shown that it is not as simple as that.
Research has indeed discovered that the brain of a new mother undergoes physical changes.
- The hypothalamus, which is a part of the brain responsible for memory and word recall, undergoes a reduction in size. The prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for executive function, undergoes a reduction in size. This could explain why planning can be challenging and why it’s common to forget even simple things3.
- The amygdala, where emotions come from, becomes larger. This could be the reason you are on an emotional rollercoaster4.
Although the causes of pregnancy brain fog remain unclear, there are several theories that have been proposed. The following are some theories about mommy brain.
1. Pregnancy hormones
During pregnancy, the levels of hormones such as progesterone and estrogen are significantly elevated. These hormones play a crucial role in supporting the development of the growing fetus.
Additionally, it is believed that these hormonal changes may also affect cognitive function. Hormone levels tend to increase during the second and third trimesters, coinciding with the peak of symptoms associated with mommy brain.
2. Stress and emotional factors
Pregnancy, childbirth, and adjusting to motherhood can be emotionally challenging and stressful. High levels of stress and emotional upheaval may affect cognitive performance.
3. Postpartum depression
Mothers who are experiencing postpartum depression may display cognitive changes. Depression can have an impact on memory, concentration, and overall cognitive function. This could be the leading cause of mommy brain after pregnancy.
4. Sleep deprivation
Sleep deprivation is a condition that occurs when an individual does not receive an adequate amount of sleep. It may be detrimental to one’s general well-being as well as one’s physical and mental health.
The demands of caring for a newborn can cause disruptions in sleep patterns for new mothers. Lack of sleep can significantly affect memory, attention, and decision-making, among other cognitive functions.
Related Reading: 9 Tips To Handle A Newborn Baby Alone
5. Inadequate nutrition intake
Pregnancy and breastfeeding necessitate extra nutritional support. Changes in diet or nutrient deficiencies can have an impact on cognitive function.
9 Tips To Cope With Mommy Brain
Women with mommy brains feel fuzzy and forgetful. They lose thoughts midway or forget specifics. They may also forget appointments or calls. Some individuals even forget the name of their spouse. They might struggle to recall the names of their close relatives.
Some people discover that their car keys are in the refrigerator, while others may forget the reason they entered a room. New parents with “mommy brains” have likely encountered a wide range of experiences. You cannot get rid of mommy’s brain completely. But there are ways to deal with it.
Dealing with “mommy brain” can be challenging, regardless of where you stand on the spectrum. Check out these tips to help you deal with pregnancy brain fog and memory loss:
1. The utilization of reminders is an effective strategy for enhancing productivity and task management.
Jot down your grocery lists, to-do lists, and anything from preparing a meal to inquiries you have for your physicians. You might even put it on a phone note. Digital alarms are another useful tool for keeping oneself on track. It’s OK to have a backup plan. Use sticky notes, SMS information to yourself, place items in plain sight, and set phone reminders. Make use of your phone’s calendar app.
2. Engaging in regular exercise will help
Engaging in exercise stimulates the release of endorphins. This hormone is responsible for inducing feelings of happiness. Exercise compels you to focus solely on yourself and your immediate needs.
Engaging in exercise classes, jogging, or going for walks often brings moments of clarity and clear thinking for many people. If you are unable to go to the gym, you can still take your baby for a walk in the pram.
3. Engage in activities that stimulate cognitive function and promote brain health.
Engaging in mental activities can be beneficial for reducing cognitive impairment. It has been found that engaging in cognitively stimulating activities regularly has been linked with a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Engaging in activities such as solving crosswords, sudoku, word games, solitaire, or any other type of logic puzzle can be beneficial. These activities stimulate and challenge your brain.
Engaging in brain games helps to develop new neural pathways. Engaging in brain games can enhance your overall mental acuity. In addition, the feeling of successfully completing a brain challenge can restore your confidence in making decisions.
4. Prioritize getting sufficient and quality sleep
Sleeping well during pregnancy or postpartum can be challenging, but it is important for refreshing your memory and maintaining mental alertness. Yes, it does seem impossible. Taking a short 15-minute cat nap can have beneficial effects. Getting three or four hours of sleep each night can also help you focus better.
5. Simplify tasks
Taking a break from multitasking and prioritizing tasks based on their level of necessity is crucial. Please simplify your tasks. In order to simplify tasks, it is crucial to break them down into smaller, more manageable components and focus on the essential aspects.
First and foremost, it is important to determine what you truly want to accomplish. Once you have identified your goals, prioritize them accordingly and separate any tasks that are of lower importance. Make an effort to simplify your approach as much as you can.
In order to develop a well-defined plan of action, it is essential to prioritize tasks according to their level of urgency and importance. Save your energy for the things that truly hold significance to you.
Related Reading: Household Work During Pregnancy – What Do And What To Avoid
6. Make plans ahead of time.
Allow yourself sufficient time to complete tasks. Make it a habit to always keep your keys and wallet in the same location every day. Make sure to allocate enough time to complete your tasks.
Develop the habit of consistently storing your keys and wallet in the same location every day. It is always important to prepare in advance. For instance, if you have an upcoming visit to your baby’s pediatrician, it’s important to prepare everything you’ll need the night before.
7. Work on mindfulness and meditation
Incorporate meditation and mindfulness into your daily routine. These practices can have positive effects on stress, concentration, and general cognitive function.
Short, regular sessions can provide significant benefits, particularly for busy mothers.
8. Establish a routine
Develop a daily schedule that includes organized tasks for both yourself and your baby. The presence of a consistent schedule can contribute to a feeling of stability, which can in turn facilitate the management of cognitive tasks and responsibilities.
Related Reading: Parental Burnout: What Is It?, Causes, Signs And Coping Tips
9. Seek professional guidance
It is advisable to seek professional guidance if cognitive changes continue or have a significant impact on your daily life. Healthcare professionals, including doctors and mental health specialists, possess the expertise to offer tailored guidance and assistance to individuals seeking healthcare services.
How Long Does Mommy Brain Last?
The duration of “mommy brain,” which refers to the cognitive changes experienced during and after pregnancy, can vary from one person to another. Some women may notice cognitive changes during pregnancy, while others may experience them after giving birth. It is important to note that these changes are typically temporary, and many women have reported experiencing improvements over time.
One error new mothers frequently make is thinking they must handle everything on their own. Whenever needed, make sure to involve your partner to the fullest extent possible. If you have family or close friends who live nearby, you can reach out to them and ask for their assistance, particularly if you find yourself in need of a break.
Bear in mind that achieving perfection is not the objective. It is perfectly acceptable to make mistakes or occasionally forget things. Embrace imperfection and prioritize the positive aspects of your parenting journey. A great way to reduce needless stress is to be kind to yourself.