Gestating a fetus is no small feat. From the physical changes and hormonal swings, , to the sense of excitement and even anxiety you may feel during pregnancy. Your entire body is really going through it while you’re waiting for your little one to arrive. However, is your brain really functioning at a lower capacity? Let’s explore the legend of pregnancy brain.
Momnesia: Real or Fake?
- The foggy head some mothers feel during pregnancy was once attributed to an overall decrease in brain function.
- A 2002 study that seemed to prove the existence of “pregnancy brain” as a reduction in overall functionality has been refuted by subsequent studies, including a 2009 study performed by a female researcher in Australia.
- This researcher, Helen Christensen, was the director of Australian National University’s Centre for Mental Health Research at the time of the study. She concluded in 2009 that women’s brains actually tend to increase in capability during pregnancy.
- As with all scientific research, there’s a bit of nuance, and the way the study itself is conducted can affect the outcome. However, given how much mothers are able to accomplish during their pregnancies, it stands to reason that our brains are kicked into overdrive during this time.
What’s Really Going On?
- While brain function may be higher during pregnancy, that doesn’t necessarily translate into a feeling of being alert and energetic. This is normal.
- During the first trimester, hormonal changes are often to blame for a feeling of fogginess, forgetfulness and fatigue. Anxiety may also play a role in this feeling for some women.
- The second trimester is often associated with a return of energy. However, not all women experience this. Women who’ve maintained a fairly consistent body weight for most of their adult lives could be feeling the strain of suddenly carrying around some extra weight. Even a few pounds can make a difference when it’s with you all day.
- In the third trimester, fatigue is often associated with difficulty sleeping and, again, increased weight requiring more physical effort throughout the day. This can be especially tough during hot weather.
- Throughout the entire pregnancy, many women are trying to maintain their normal lives. This is in addition to taking on massive additional tasks of caring for themselves and preparing their homes and lives for a baby. It doesn’t take a team of researchers to determine that anyone experiencing this kind of extra workload might not be as sharp and on top of things as they ordinarily are.
What You Can Do
- Be compassionate with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with other moms.
- Every pregnancy is unique, and whether or not yours is “perfect” and “blissful” is mostly a matter of uncontrollable factors. This includes genetics, not a moral or intellectual triumph.
- Don’t put unfair pressure on yourself, this can make it harder to deal with your feelings.
- Make written lists to help combat forgetfulness.
- If you’re feeling tired, give yourself permission to relax. Ask your partner, friends and family members for help picking up the slack.
- Don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself. You might not be able to do exactly what you used to do before you got pregnant, and that’s OK.