Pregnancy Brain: How Fogginess and Forgetfulness May Be a Protection Mechanism
Is “pregnancy brain” for real?!
Have any of you experienced mental fogginess, forgetfulness, poor concentration, absentmindedness, and/or word finding difficulty during and/or after pregnancy?! Personally I have struggled with this both before and after becoming a mom BUT I have noticed this forgetfulness and brain fogginess much more during and after my third pregnancy.
So does “pregnancy” or ‘baby” brain really exist? The research is mixed but a recent review of 20 studies assessed 700 pregnant women versus 500 non pregnant women and concluded that the pregnant women did demonstrate poorer cognitive, memory and executive functioning. However, these changes are most noticeable to those close to the women and are less likely to affect her job performance or be noticed by outsiders.
What contributes to these feelings of “baby” brain? It has been found that during and after giving birth, a mother’s brain changes. There are actually notable reductions in gray matter throughout the brain responsible for maternal instinct, attachment to and bonding with your baby. This improves your ability to focus on all the things you need to know and learn as a new mom. One article summarized it as “stimulating the female to progress from an individual with self-directed needs to being responsible for the care of another life.” (Barba-Müller et al. 2019). On the other side it may make you feel foggy and forgetful and one study actually suggested it can increase the likelihood of developing perinatal mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.
How long do these changes last? A recent study found these changes in the maternal brain actually were still found 6 years postpartum and were associated with maternal attachment (Magdelena et al. 2021). These findings also made researchers wonder if these changes might be permanent.
In summary, your brain changes significantly during the pre and postnatal period, but for good reason! It improves your attachment and bond with your baby and continues as they grow. So maybe you lose your phone more often or you aren’t always exactly sure what day of the week it is BUT the most important thing is the strength of your bond with your little one…and isn’t this a little more important than knowing if it’s Monday or Tuesday?
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*Disclaimer: This post is educational and not medical advice. Please consult your medical provider for information specific to your needs*
Erika Barba-Müller, Sinéad Craddock, Susanna Carmona, Elseline Hoekzema.Brain plasticity in pregnancy and the postpartum period: links to maternal caregiving and mental health. Arch Womens Ment Health. 2019; 22(2): 289–299
Magdalena et al. Do Pregnancy – Induced Brain Changes Reverse? The Brain of a Mother Six Years after Partruition. Brain Sci.2021 Jan 28;11(2):168