My Posts

Pregnancy Brain: Why and How Does It Happen?

By Albulena Murturi


27 February 2024

Pregnancy Brain

©️ / Freepik

Pregnancy is a time of big changes, not just in your body but also in how your brain works. Ever heard of “pregnancy brain” or “mommy brain”? It’s when you might feel a bit forgetful, space out, or just not as sharp. In this article, let’s explore why this happens, what causes it, and some tips for handling it during and after pregnancy.

Understanding Pregnancy Brain

Pregnancy brain usually kicks in early, around the first trimester. That’s when hormones like progesterone and estrogen go into overdrive. These hormones, important for a healthy pregnancy, can affect your memory, focus, and attention. Studies even show that pregnant women can struggle with remembering locations and spatial relations between objects.

Pregnancy Brain
©️ valeria_aksakova / Freepik

A 2021 study measured the memory of 40 pregnant women in comparison to 40 nonpregnant women. Even after considering factors like age and education, the researchers still observed that pregnant women struggled more with memory and naming objects and fingers. This suggests that being pregnant might affect memory and language skills in women. However, they did not find any distinctions in working memory between pregnant and non-pregnant women. They speculate that this absence of contrast could signify a rise in the processing of emotions without using words. Maybe this is the thing mums need to develop a meaningful emotional bond with their children.

Blame It on the Lack of Zzz’s

Pregnant or not, sleep has a fundamental effect on our general well-being. But sleep becomes a real challenge during pregnancy. Issues like heartburn, leg cramps, and nausea make it hard to get good rest. As the belly grows, finding a comfy sleeping position becomes a mission. Quality sleep is crucial for clear thinking, and without it, you might feel a bit moody and forgetful.

Pregnancy Brain
©️ Freepik

Stress and Anxiety

Getting ready to be a parent is no small task. There’s a lot to do, from appointments to getting the nursery ready. Plus, there’s the anxiety about childbirth. All these things can stress you out, affecting your focus. The mix of stress and the anticipation of becoming a parent creates a unique mental landscape for each person. Furthermore, due to hormonal changes, pregnancy can be accompanied by mood swings similar to PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome).

Physical Changes in the Brain

Apart from hormones and sleep, something fascinating happens in the brain. A study found that pregnant women experience a decrease in gray matter volume in areas linked to social understanding and building relationships. It’s like the brain is making room for that special connection with the baby. Surprisingly, these brain changes can last for years, extending into the toddler years of the child.

Not All Is Bad News

Being a parent might help protect the brain from aging. A study looked at the connections in the brains of 220 older women (around 74 years old) and 252 older men (around 74 years old). The researchers wanted to see if the number of children a person had was related to how their brain connections worked as they got older.

Surprisingly, they didn’t find any connection between the number of children and brain connections in men. However, in women, they noticed that having more children was linked to changes in brain connections. As the number of children increased, the connections in the brain decreased, and there was less communication between different parts of the brain. These changes were opposite to what we usually see in age-related cognitive decline, suggesting that being a mother might actually be good for brain function as women age.

Pregnancy Brain
©️ Freepik

Coping With Pregnancy Brain:

While pregnancy brain is part of the journey, there are ways to handle it:

  • Eat Brain-Boosting Foods: Include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon), antioxidants (found in blueberries), choline (in egg yolks), and vitamins (in leafy greens like spinach) to support your brain.
  • Mental ExercisesEngage in activities that stimulate your brain, like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, or brain-training apps
  • Get Good Sleep: Create a bedtime routine to signal your body that it’s time to wind down. Minimize screen time before sleep, make your sleeping space cozy, and try relaxing activities like deep breathing. Also, try the pregnancy pillow that everyone is talking about. They say it works pretty well.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink enough water, especially during pregnancy and after childbirth. Even mild dehydration can make it hard to concentrate.

The pregnancy brain is a mix of hormones, sleep patterns, stress, and even brain changes. While it can be challenging, understanding and embracing these transformations as part of the journey into parenthood can help. With patience, self-care, and a sense of humor, the fog of pregnancy brain will eventually lift, allowing you to fully enjoy the adventure of becoming a parent. As science uncovers more about ‘pregnancy brain’, the journey becomes not just a physical transformation but a fascinating exploration of the mind’s adaptability during one of life’s most profound experiences.

Mama bears, did you experience ‘pregnancy brain’ symptoms? Don’t hesitate to tell us in the comments!

You may also like: Dance of Hormones: Menstrual Cycle Effect on Brain Plasticity

Albulena Murturi

An enthusiastic learner rediscovering the joy of writing.