Pregnancy brain: Is it real, or just a way to forget and never remember miscellaneous things? Pregnancy brain, also known as mom brain, refers to the attention and memory loss identified during pregnancy. If you feel it, you're not alone, either - 80% of pregnant moms report these memory loss symptoms, and even doctors confirm it is true, as well as explain the reason behind it. You can find all this and even some tips and tricks in this 30 minute snack-sized Pregnancy Pukeology Episode 32: Pregnancy Brain & Improving Your Memory While Pregnant!
What is "Pregnancy Brain?"
Today, we learn the science behind the real mom brain: a medical condition of forgetfulness, why it happens, when the brain returns back to normal, and also share some tips and tricks regarding improved memory and cognitive skills.
Pregnancy brain, also known as mom brain or baby brain, is formally recognized as attention loss and memory lapse during pregnancy. As a doctor and mommy, I can firsthand confirm the phenomenon, as I felt this mom brain during my multiple pregnancies. I'm not alone, either - 80% of expectant moms have reported forgetting things and other symptoms of "mom brain". As a matter of fact, many studies show a remarkable decline in cognitive skills for pregnant moms.
Why is "Pregnancy Brain" a thing?
According to the best and most recent studies, doctors have shown there is an actual purpose for the pregnancy brain memory loss. This memory loss is a result of brain changes that are meant to assist the pregnant mom in preparing her to form a bond with the baby, according to psychologists. However, the reason for the correlation is not entirely clear yet. Physical changes such as tiredness, exhaustion during the first and third trimester could be cause for forgetfulness, although further research is ongoing.
What is the science behind "Pregnancy Brain"?
The science behind mom brain is very new and very exciting for many moms, and is mainly thanks to the most greatest and latest MRI-based studies. As most moms will confirm, hormonal changes are basic and constant during pregnancy, and there is a lot of continuous change during pregnancy, as well as some physiological changes as well. It is currently not completely known how brain and memory are affected, but some studies show some pregnant women have much worse conditions than other pregnant women. It is known, however, that the worst memory loss is experienced during the last 3 months of pregnancy.
The third trimester is when forgetfulness escalates even more. Postpartum, it can take up to 2 years for the brain’s chemistry levels to return to normal. During the memory loss period, the brain has decreased activity in the memory regions, but increased activity in regions that control emotions (hence why so much crying). Here, the body is preparing to form a bond with the baby, which come in the form of a sense of sensitivity and emotions, as well as the unique ability to read facial expressions that your baby is producing. By forming these links, a baby momma can read her baby’s facial emotions and expressions, akin to dog moms knowing their pups emotions by visual clues. This pregnancy brain research utilizing MRIs is top of the line new research, and if you’re interested in how a device like MRIs or ultrasounds work on babies, then head over to episode 25, “3D ultrasound vs 4D ultrasound: What is an ultrasound or sonogram?” Pregnancy Pukeology Podcast.
A one-of-a-kind study shows a pregnant mom's brain architecture changes strikingly during a woman's first pregnancy. Not only does it change so rapidly to adapt, but it remains this way for up to 2 years. In the brain, which is composed of grey and white matter, the grey matter actually shrinks in the areas involving processing and social signals. The newly adapted mom brain is more efficiently wired in areas that allow responding to different maternal needs, or protective innate instinct.
What are tips and tricks for remembering better and treating "Pregnancy Brain"?
As with all of the Pregnancy Pukeology Podcast episodes, I'm here to entertain, educate, and help all the other mommas out there! Today, we cover some good tips and tricks for "treating" pregnancy brain, and improving the symptoms of pregnancy memory loss. It is totally normal and common to be forgetful, especially during the third trimester, so don’t be surprised over small forgetfulness! It is recognized that memory is regained in at most 2 years, but what can you do in order to improve memory during this period?
- Adequate amount of sleep: This is necessary for refreshing memory and the energy needed to grow a baby healthily to term. Recommended at least 8 hours of sleep, and if you have trouble getting these key 8 hours, head over to NoMo Nausea to get the sleep help you need through added melatonin from pressure technology and essential oil infusion.
- Train brain: apps for brain training in order to improve cognitive skills
- Exercise regularly: moderate exercise keeps you healthy and happy, and improves memory and sleep abilities which give you added energy and happiness.
- Take pregnancy supplements such as iron, and omega 3 fatty acids which improve memory abilities. Other supplements such as phosphatidylserine help coat the brain, in order to help the white matter with cell transduction of a message from start to finish. Also maintain good nutrition habits by eating nuts and fish for added omega, but be keen to eat the ones with the least amount of mercury. For more tips on pregnancy diet, check out this Pregnancy Pukeology episode, “What To Eat During Pregnancy."
What's the scientific research behind "Pregnancy Brain" look like?
There are a lot of psychological and physiological changes going on during a pregnancy. Previously, much anecdotal changes included reports of pregnant women forgetting things and having difficulty concentrating. Pregnancy is associated with long-term anatomical brain changes, and also accompanied by adaptive change. Research from the University of Barcelona used real, pregnant women brains under MRI scans, which were scanned before and a month postpartum in order to study. This study visibly showed decreases in grey matter volume amongst the pregnant women.
The noticeable changes occur in areas involved with social tasks, such as reading desires and understanding intentions of others from facial expressions. What’s most important is that mom scores on standardized tests that gauged degree of attachment could be predicted based solely on amount of grey matter volume found in their brain, which could potentially also show a curious link to post-partum depression. From the study, 11 of the 25 moms returned for a secondary MRI scan (and not pregnant), also returned to normal grey matter levels.