Most moms expect all the physical signs of pregnancy: ever-expanding waistlines, swollen ankles, a glowing face. But in addition to these telltale signs, you probably weren’t expecting to add brain fog to the list of body changes!
“A woman’s actual brain cells do not change, but the environment around them do,” he said. “During pregnancy, the body sends a flood of fluctuating hormones throughout the body. It’s like a truckload of different sizes and flavors, which affect all kinds of neurons in the brain.”
These physiological changes on the brain can cause women to experience memory problems, poor concentration and absentmindedness. So if you’re finding that more and more you misplace your keys, forget appointments or can’t remember why you walked upstairs, you’re not imagining it.
But while research is mixed as to if and what changes the brain actually undergoes during pregnancy, Dr. Saleh agrees environmental changes, such as sleep deprivation, stress and distraction, are big contributors to the problem.
When a woman becomes pregnant, her No. 1 priority is now on her baby. She becomes distracted by excitement and worry about all the major life changes this baby will bring, which makes it difficult to focus and remember anything else.
“Priorities are now shifted to focus on the growing baby and preparing for the arrival,” said Dr. Saleh. “So, it’s easy for women to forget about other things because the brain is hyper focused on the baby and pregnancy.”
Not to mention, when anyone experiences a consistent lack of sleep or chronic stress, research has shown that impacts cognitive function and memory.
How to cope with pregnancy brain
Dr. Saleh offers 8 tips to help moms lift the fog and overcome absentmindedness during pregnancy — no matter what the reason.
- Build a strong support system and ask for help to lighten your load and reduce the number of things to remember, so you can focus on what’s most important to you.
- Get a good night’s rest and if that’s not possible, sneak in naps during the day.
- Exercise regularly, which not only is essential to a healthy pregnancy, but also sharpens your memory, reduces stress and helps you sleep better at night.
- Keep a daily calendar to help you stay organized.
- Write important events and tasks down on Post-its or a note-taking app.
- Set alarms and notifications for important meetings, appointments and tasks.
- Take snapshots of where you left your keys, phone or even your parked car in a parking lot to help you remember.
- Play brain-boosting games, such as crossword or Sudoku puzzles.
Fortunately, pregnant women who do experience brain fog typically have minor, manageable forgetfulness — and, it’s only temporary.
“Pregnancy is a tremendous investment and women should be very proud,” said Dr. Saleh. “There are real mental, physical and physiological changes going on during pregnancy, and this might just be the brain’s way of preparing you for the all-consuming, extraordinary role of motherhood.”
A little forgetfulness during pregnancy is normal and very common. However, if you’re really struggling to concentrate or are feeling unusually sad or withdrawn, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders could be to blame. Talk to your doctor or call Akron Children’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine Center at 330-543-4500.