We are all familiar with the incredible journey of motherhood, full of profound changes and emotions. Nothing can quite prepare a woman for the physical and emotional rollercoaster that comes with pregnancy. Everyone is very well aware of the physical changes that take place during pregnancy, but very few of them know about the changes in the brain. Has any of you heard about “mom brain”? If not, I am sure most of you have already experienced it during and after pregnancy.
Mom brain is a condition faced by every woman during pregnancy and postpartum. This term refers to the experience of feeling forgetful, foggy, and disorganized. We often listen to pregnant women saying things like, I forgot to make breakfast, so sorry I left my keys in the car, or I forgot what I was thinking! This all happens because of mom brain.
Now comes the question, “Do you really have it?” The answer is yes, you have all experienced mom brain in all your pregnancies. It could be something like forgetting your own birthday or continuously questioning your sanity, but it’s hard to figure out what’s really happening to you at that time. For some people, “mom brain” can hit really hard, and reading just a simple paragraph can become a tedious and exhausting task.
A study conducted in 2017 and published in Nature Neuroscience found that pregnancy leads to a decrease in the grey matter in women’s brains. It might sound alarming that your brain matter decreases, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. There is a phenomenon called pruning, it naturally happens in all humans. In this process, the brain removes unnecessary nerve connections to make some room for new connections. So decrease in grey matter is not a bad thing; you can think of it as a new start.
The Scientific American Science Magazine, and The New York Times, stated that “mom brain” lasts even after pregnancy and affects cognitive function in the postpartum period. The magazine reported many pre and post-birth reductions in some areas of the brain, including the hypothalamus, amygdala, and nucleus accumbens. Scientists explained this phenomenon as a reduction in some brain regions to enhance other cognitive functions.
Mom brain is not a negative thing but, rather, a positive thing in many ways. Maccormack, a research assistant professor at NYU Langone Health, said that these cognitive changes give moms new abilities like multitasking, stress management, and an extraordinary sense of what their child needs. Christina Moran is the mother of three children; she said she can sense and feel the magical skills she gained after all three pregnancies.
So here is some useful information for all the mothers who might be wondering if they have lost their minds. I never knew these facts when I was pregnant, so I compiled them here for all mothers to benefit from them.
What Exactly Is “Mom Brain”?
Mom brain also called “pregnancy brain” or “baby brain” may sound like a fictional term that has no scientific basis or a convenient excuse for your carelessness, but it is a real condition. Mom brain is a scientifically explained condition experienced by pregnant women and some research even shows that it has long-lasting effects. Research performed by the University of British Columbia stated that pregnancy has a permanent influence on cognitive function.
Mom brain is different from the usual forgetfulness experienced by everyone in daily life. It is unique in terms of severity, you can have difficulty remembering names and words and even concentrating on a specific task. For some women, it manifests as difficulty recalling simple words uses in routine like shampoo, moisturizer, frying pan, and jug.
Is Mom Brain A Reality Or A Myth?
Mommy brain is a reality; much research and scientific evidence have proven this phenomenon. Research has shown that during and after pregnancy, the human brain undergoes various vital changes of reorganization known as neuroplasticity. McCormack said that these brain changes are very important and are associated with the caregiving behavior of a mother towards her child.
Moreover, McCormack and her colleagues also postulated that neuroplasticity in pregnancy is similar to what happens during adolescence. These hormonally mediated transitions in motivation, cognition, emotions, and attention are important to meet the new demands of life.
A neuroscientist, Liisa Galea said that mom brain is real, and it all makes sense because the brain is really plastic during the last trimester of pregnancy and in the postpartum period. These changes happen because the mother has learned to care for her baby and adapt to this new sensitive creature.
In a study proposed by Poser (1986) in which, he surveyed 67 pregnancies, out of which 51 were educated working women. The women were asked to fill out a questionnaire based on many questions related to physical and neuropsychological complaints. Over 80% of the women reported an increase in forgetfulness and fogginess of the brain. Disorganization, disorientation, poor concentration, and confusion were also recorded.
Another study performed by Parson & Redman (1991) also provided data that confirms that mom brain is a reality and pregnancy has great effects on women’s brains. In this research, fifty pregnant women were observed at different stages of pregnancy, and researchers found that eighty-two percent of the women have cognitive changes in their brains and some working memory disturbances.
What Are The Symptoms Of Mom Brain?
- Brain Fog: One of the most common symptoms of mom brain is brain fog. This is when you feel like you can’t think straight, or you can’t remember things. Brain fog can make it difficult to complete simple tasks, and it can be frustrating for both you and those around you.
- Fatigue: Fatigue is another common symptom of mom brain. This is when you feel tired all the time, even if you’ve had a good night’s sleep. Fatigue can make it difficult to get through the day, and it can be hard to find the energy to play with your kids or participate in other activities that you enjoy.
- Irritability: If you’re suffering from mom brain, you may also find yourself feeling more irritable than usual. It may be due to the stress of trying to juggle everything on your plate.
- Mood swings: Mood swings are another common symptom of mom brain. You may find yourself feeling happy one minute and then angry or sad the next. These mood swings can be confusing for both you and those around you, and they can make it difficult to maintain healthy relationships.
- Difficulty concentrating: If you have mom brain, you may also have difficulty concentrating on tasks. This can make it difficult to get work done or even just to carry on a conversation without getting distracted. Concentration difficulties can also make it hard to drive or operate machinery, so it’s important to be aware of this symptom if you have mom brain.
- Memory problems: Memory problems are another common symptom of mom brain. You may find yourself forgetting things that you would normally remember or having difficulty recalling new information.
Do I Have Mom Brain? How Can I Tell?
While there is no definitive answer to this question due to the fact that everyone experiences brain changes differently, there are some common signs that may indicate mild brain fog. Many new moms complain of memory lapses, difficulty concentrating and multitasking, brain fatigue, or being easily overwhelmed by mental tasks.
Studies show that the brain changes postpartum, which may diminish your ability to focus and remember little things. If you’re struggling with memory or productivity, it may be because of mom brain.
Why Does Mom Brain Happen?
Pregnancy comes with a sequence of changes, including physical, mental, and hormonal changes. When the mother’s focus becomes narrow and intense (toward the child), then the periphery (surroundings) becomes blurry. Remember, if you are facing your mom’s brain, there is no reason to stress out or be alarmed. It’s a natural process, and just trust that your brain knows what is going on. These are some reasons that might lead to moms brain:
- Sleep Deprivation: Proper uninterrupted sleep is important for every human being but especially for pregnant women. Sleep is important for pregnant women so that all hormonal changes can take place accurately. Sleep deprivation can disturbs the balance. After birth, many mothers experience insomnia, which leads to forgetfulness and memory loss.
- Hormonal Changes: During pregnancy, the rise in the levels of estrogen and progesterone can affect normal brain thinking and functioning. According to a 2014 study published in Brain And Cognition, pregnant women have poorer results in spatial recognition memory (SRM) tests than non-pregnant women.
- Anxiety and Stress: A research paper in the American Journal of Psychiatry proves that stress and anxiety can affect cognitive function and cause memory decline. So, it is important for you not to stress before or after pregnancy just go with the flow.
When Does Mom Brain Go Away? How Long Does It Last?
The answer to this question is unclear because there is no specific time when mommy brain should end. It depends on how you take care of yourself after pregnancy; if you get good sleep and cope with stress, then it might last just a few months. But some studies show that it might last as long as 2 years. The forgetfulness and fogginess would vanish after a few months, but you can still experience the other symptoms of mom brain.
Some studies show that women who have children have better memory and task-handling capacity than women with no children. In other words, the changes that take place in your brain during pregnancy will eventually help you to get a sharper and more focused brain. Hollie Swire, a clinical social worker, believes that pregnancy has made her more enthusiastic and let her see the world from a better perspective.
Alison Kravit, a mother and psychologist, said that mom brain sucks her during pregnancy whether it was a planner or visual reminder, nothing could help her remember things she forgot. She also highlighted the positive perspective that she had a good record of getting through hard things just because of the strength pregnancy induced in her.
What Can I Do About Mom Brain?
You are going through a lot of changes during and after pregnancy, so it is normal if your body is reacting abnormally. Sometimes, the effects of mom brain may be annoying, but remind yourself that there is a reason behind this madness. Give yourself some healing time, and let your body naturally adapt to this new transition.
Develop a Routine
You should write down a routine on your notepad and follow it daily. This will free your mind from stressing out about what you should do. You can write down your routine and your baby’s, like feeding time, shower time, eating time, and family time. This will give you peace of mind, and you will stay away from forgetfulness and a foggy brain. Think about what can work best for you and then make it a routine.
Get Proper Sleep
Sleep is a really important factor for your brain health. It helps to store and recall all the information received throughout the day. As a mother of a newborn, it might be challenging for you to get proper sleep, but you can manage to have one. If you decide on household chores and baby care with your partner, then you will get a few more hours to sleep. Otherwise, sleep deprivation can lead to forgetfulness.
Boost Brain Health
Eating healthy foods and exercising regularly will help you boost your brain health. Besides this, try eating food that claims to improve your brain health, like cherries, blueberries, broccoli, and turmeric. Moreover, playing games like puzzles will also help with brain health. You can choose any method that can help to combat mom brain.
A Word Of Advice!
Although it may trouble you a bit, stay assured that “mom brain” is a temporary condition that can lead to confusion, distraction, forgetfulness, and fogginess. It results from the changes in the brain that take place during pregnancy, like a decrease in gray matter. These changes will help you develop a sense of love and affection toward your baby and face challenging situations. There is nothing to worry about if you have “mom brain,” just keep in mind that it is there to help you with the motherhood phase. So, instead of feeling scared and overwhelmed, use it to your advantage!