Pregnancy Brain - What it is, Why it happens, and How to Combat It
When you first discover that you are pregnant you start to prepare for all the changes that are going to occur. Your belly will start to get bigger, your ankles may swell, your hair may get thicker, but what many mothers forget to mention is the mental changes. In addition to all of the physical changes you can expect when you’re pregnant, you will also begin to change mentally. Maybe you have already noticed it. You temporarily forget your birthday, your can’t remember why you walked into a room, you accidentally leave something in the oven, and my personal favorite--putting the milk in the cupboard and the cereal in the fridge. “Pregnancy brain,” or “mommy brain,” is a real thing that many women experience during their pregnancy. In this article, we explore what pregnancy brain is, why it happens, and how to combat its effects.
What is pregnancy brain? And Is it real?
When a woman becomes pregnant she may begin to notice changes in her cognitive functioning. Perhaps she struggles to remember things, can’t focus, or can’t pay attention to something for an extended period of time. This is referred to as pregnancy brain. “Pregnancy brain” shows up around the first trimester of pregnancy and stays until a few months postpartum. Pregnancy brain a real struggle and it can be very frustrating. Knowing what causes pregnancy brain and how to combat it can make the dilemma feel more manageable.
Why does pregnancy brain happen?
There is a variety of compounding factors that occur when you become pregnant that can cause pregnancy brain. These factors include hormones, lack of sleep, and stress. While there is little conclusion about what exactly causes pregnancy brain, research has shown that there is a change in cognitive functions when a woman becomes pregnant. There are many theories about what causes pregnancy brain. Hormones, lack of sleep, and stress are some of these but there have been no conclusive studies.
As with almost every other change during pregnancy, it is likely you can blame your pregnancy brain on hormones. When you become pregnant your body’s hormone levels are changing rapidly and frequently. Hormone changes influence your ability to recall things and focus. In a 2014 study, researchers discovered a correlation between pregnancy and Spacial Recognition Memory. Spacial Recognition Memory is your brain’s ability to remember where things are located in relation to one another. For example, when you set your phone down on the couch, your brain should store that information away for you to remember later. However, when you are pregnant, your brain loses this ability. This means that you forget where your phone is, almost as soon as you set it down. So, when you are late for an appointment because you can’t find your keys, just remember to blame the hormones.
Lack of Sleep
In addition to your hormones, your changing body can cause a lot of physical discomforts. This discomfort can make it very hard for you to go to sleep at night and stay asleep. In addition, other pregnancy symptoms such as heartburn, restless legs, and nausea can make it difficult for a woman to go to sleep and stay asleep. Later on, once your baby is born, you may also have fitful nights of sleep as your baby can wake you up in the middle of the night. Sleep deprivation has a large impact on your short term and long term memory. Sleep deprivation and pregnancy brain have many of the same symptoms.
Stress can cause you to forget a lot of things. Your brain hyper-focuses on things that you are stressed about. With a new baby coming into your life, there are many things that your brain may be stressing about. Doctor appointments, baby preparations, and worries about childbirth can take too much of your attention away from everything else. This can make it difficult to remember small things, such as what you came into the room to do.
How to combat pregnancy brain
Now that you know what causes pregnancy brain you are better prepared to work against it. While many of the things that cause pregnancy brain cannot be changed, you can work against the symptoms. So, what are some of the things you can do to help combat pregnancy brain?
- Get as much sleep as you can. It may seem impossible and elusive, but sleep is incredibly important. If you have a hard time going to sleep try to meditate or do things to relax before you go to bed. Make your bed as comfortable as possible and if you need to take a nap during the day. Sleep allows your brain to form short term memory into long term memory, if you don’t have enough you may end up forgetting things.
- Maintain a healthy and well-rounded diet. Food is an essential part of your brain’s ability to function. Your body, and your brain, need certain nutrients in order to function properly. Make sure you are maintaining a healthy and well-rounded diet so that you can combat pregnancy brain.
- Set reminders/Make lists. Make it easier for your brain by writing things down and setting reminders for yourself. If you need to take the trash out at 8AM, set a reminder for yourself on your phone. That way you will remember and you will not rely on your brain to file away that short-term information. Similarly, if there are things that you need to complete throughout the day, make sure you write yourself a list. That way you can write it down and forget about it until you need to check it.
- Play brain games. An essential part of remembering information and having a strong short term memory is through practice. You don’t sit on the couch and then go run a marathon one day, you have to practice and strengthen your muscles. Your brain is the same way, you need to strengthen the neural pathways so that you can remember things when it becomes difficult. Playing brain games such as Soduko or doing crosswords can help strengthen those pathways. Apps such as Lumosity, Elevate, and Impulse can also help you do these things with fun interactive games.
Pregnancy brain is a real problem that many pregnant women deal with. It is characterized by difficulty remembering things, an inability to focus, and not being able to concentrate. Pregnancy brain can be caused by hormones, lack of sleep, and even stress. In order to combat pregnancy brain, you can get as much sleep as possible, eat well, set reminders, make lists, and play brain games.
Pregnancy brain can become worse once the baby is born. In your first few months postpartum your body is trying to heal but a lack of sleep and the stress of having a newborn can make it difficult. Invest in yourself and get over your pregnancy brain faster by investing in a Bellefit postpartum girdle. Postpartum girdles are designed to offer medical-grade compression and ease the pain from labor and birth. They are ideal for women who have had a C-section or women who have had a vaginal birth. By easing your pain, postpartum girdles make it easier for you to recover quickly and spend time with your newborn.
Thankfully, pregnancy brain typically only lasts during pregnancy and for a few months afterward. It is a completely normal experience for pregnant women and while it can be frustrating, it should not be a cause for concern.