Updated: Nov 20
You expect there to be physical changes in pregnancy, but are your perhaps finding yourself feeling forgetful, absentminded, or just generally in a daze? No need to worry, this is actually common and known as ‘baby brain’. It is believed by some researchers that expectant mothers experience these changes to their brain in order to prepare them for the intensity of caring for a newborn, developing the ability to cope with stress whilst attending also making her more attuned to her infant's needs.
However, not all studies point to any major cognitive differences between pregnant and non-pregnant women. For example, a 2014 study looked at pregnant women in their third trimester, women who were three months postpartum, and non-pregnant controls. While both pregnant and postpartum women reported higher self-rated levels of memory problems, the results of the study found no differences between controls and pregnant/postpartum women on a range of measures related to memory, attention, and executive functioning.
The science is still not completely conclusive on this phenomenon, but most agree it there us a change in cognitive skills during pregnancy and common sense tells us there are some key contributing factors.
Sleep Deprivation Most women experience at some point a level of insomnia. The first trimester can leave you feeling exhausted but combined with symptoms such as nausea and heartburn your ability to get a good nights sleep and ever feel fully rested can be impacted.
Later in pregnancy, finding a comfortable position is a nearly impossible feat, aches and pains, the constant pressure on your bladder…well it doesn’t really lend itself to long periods of rest!
Sleep deprivation can cause you to feel completely out of sorts. It can affect your mood and memory. When you sleep, your brain makes critical connections that help you process information, so not getting a good night’s rest could also be contributing to your sense of Baby Brain.
Stress and Anxiety There is no doubt that during pregnancy you may have a lot weighing on your mind. The concept of bring new life into the world, that you will be responsible for, is exciting but also overwhelming. There are appointments to keep track of, plans to make, important decisions to consider and task to complete.
Add to that any apprehension, even fear you may with the thought of childbirth - it’s no surprise you may be having difficulty focusing. If you are feeling anxiety in relation to giving birth, you may find this related article helpful.
You experience significant surges of various hormones during pregnancy, and some researchers believe that this dramatic spike could affect your ability to think clearly, recall easily, and focus mindfully.
What can you do to reduce the impact of ‘Baby Brain’?
Get Sleep Quality sleep can often be elusive during pregnancy, however trying relaxation, meditation or hypnosis can be a great remedy.
Other things to consider include additional pillows to support your body, aromatherapy to help you relax, or perhaps even drinking herbal tea in preparation for bed. Learn more about aromatherapy in pregnancy here.
Set Reminders If you’re having trouble remembering things or maintaining focus, try incorporating a daily planner into your routine, set alarms on your phone and document every appointment in your calendar, even if you have never needed to do this in the past.
Babies come with lots of appointments and create many distractions! Using the calendar in your phone is a great way to keep track of tings, because let’s be honest, we all lose those handy appointment cards and are never without our phones!
Eat Well Certain foods high in antioxidants and vitamins have been proven to help with brain function. Here are a few to add to your upcoming grocery list:
Omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon and other fatty fish are loaded with DHA and omega-3 fatty acids that help to build brain cells needed for cognition and memory. Just be mindful of recommend intake level during pregnancy.
Blueberries have antioxidants that fight inflammation and help boost communication between brain cells.
Eggs. Egg yolks have a high concentration of choline, a nutrient that makes acetylcholine, which helps stabilize mood and improve memory.
Spinach. Leafy green veggies are chock-full of vitamin K, folate, and other brain-empowering vitamins and minerals.
Your brain needs water to function properly. Even mild dehydration can have adverse effects on your ability to concentrate and totally impact your energy level.
Be kind to yourself
There is so much going on physically, mentally, and emotionally. Give yourself a break and don’t sweat the small things. It won’t be like this forever.
Baby brain may have you feeling a little off right now, but in time you will return to your usual self. These changes are no reflection on you, there are real physiological reasons why this is happening. Consider it a demonstration of the effort your amazing body is dedicating to growing your wonderful, beautiful baby.