Pregnancy Brain: Myth or Reality?
Relax, pregnancy does not change your brain. But it may affect how mentally sharp you feel.
What Pregnancy Brain Feels Like
Pregnancy brain is "the feeling of walking into a room, going after something, and not remembering what you went for about five to 10 times a day," Brizendine says.
There may also be an evolutionary aspect to it. Women’s health expert Donnica Moore, MD, says, "It has been postulated that, from an evolutionary standpoint, this memory impairment may be helpful so that women will forget about other stuff and focus on caring for the child."
Many pregnant women and new moms spend a lot of time thinking about the changes that having a baby will bring or taking care of their newborn. As a result, their short-term memory may suffer.
How to Help Your Memory
Moore says if you feel you're not as sharp as usual, that should be "your first tip-off that, when you are preparing to have a baby, you need to simplify other areas of your life because life is about to get a lot more complicated."
After the baby arrives, sleep deprivation is clearly a contributing factor. Brizendine says, "Women accumulate up to 700 hours of sleep debt in the first year after having a baby, and that causes the brain not to be at its best for things other than caring for the baby."
So what can you do?
Write things down. Ob-gyn Geeta Sharma, MD, of New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, says, "Most patients comment, 'I have to write my questions down or I will forget,' and then mention that they are more forgetful in general."
Jotting things down, whether on a grocery list or a list of questions to ask your obstetrician, helps. "Make lists, use a day planner, and keep your sense of humor," Moore says.
Get more sleep. This may be tricky for new parents. But it can make a real difference. "Most moms need more deep sleep, and within a week of getting better sleep, some of this momnesia stuff goes away," Brizendine says.
"If your memory problems are getting in the way of taking safety precautions or if you find yourself doing things like forgetting to put your child in the car seat, worry," Brizendine says. "Otherwise, it's normal."