PREGNANCY BRAIN IS A THING
The reality of momnesia
“I forgot why I got off the couch”, “Did I wash my hair already?”, “How to open the door?”. While all these may seem trivial or downright hilarious, there are some women who do experience what is commonly termed as ‘baby brain’, says Dr Vinieta Diwakar, consultant obstetrician and gynaecology, Columbia Asia Hospital, Ghaziabad. Read on to know more...
Amnesia is linked to memory loss and the decline in the cognitive abilities of a person. Interestingly, many women around the world report a decline in cognitive abilities during their pregnancies. This includes forgetting things, confusion, and difficulty in focusing. The medical community usually terms these symptoms as ‘pregnancy brain’, ‘baby brain’, and even ‘momnesia’. However, if this is an actual condition experienced by expectant mothers, is much debated.
Exploring the reality of pregnancy brain
One psychological study on this subject states that poorer memory and thinking problems affect 50 to 80 per cent of pregnant
women. Older, but still relevant studies, like one published in the American Journal of Neuroradiology (2002), brain volume of pregnant mothers can reduce up to four per cent and then normalise post-delivery. Another study published in 2007 in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology found that expecting mothers, throughout their pregnancy, worsen in memory tasks than matched non-pregnant controls. Contrary to above assertions, a 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology found no such observations in their research on 42 expectant women. However, a larger research study published in the Medical Journal of Australia this year, analysed 20 studies and included 709 pregnant women, revealed that pregnant women showed poorer cognitive functioning, memory, and executive functioning, particularly during the third trimester. So what’s the truth? Pregnancy brain does exist. The brain definitely behaves differently during pregnancy, as a woman’s body goes through many changes during this time. One of the major contributing factors is lack of sleep. It’s a proven fact that one’s memory does not work as well as it can when the mind has not rested enough. Surging hormones is another factor that should be blamed. It is estimated that during pregnancy, women experience a surge of 15 to 40 times the progesterone and oestrogen, which affect neurons in the brain. Evolving newer priorities in life can be another aspect where normal things can lose importance. However, these lapses in memory did not seem to seriously affect daily life and has usually not proven to be dangerous. The chances of major consequences which can trigger negligence or reduce work performance are very low. In fact, nothing critical has been attributed to the condition.
How to beat pregnancy brain?
Pregnancy brain can turn out to be worrisome for expecting mothers who already have a lot on their minds. It is important for mothers to realise that forgetfulness is very common even during our normal phases. Having said that, there are things one can do to minimise the effect of pregnancy brain.
GET AMPLE REST:
There is no substitute for rest. It is essential for mothers to receive the adequate amount of rest as per the needs of the body. The eight-hour rule may not apply, owing to the fact that various physiological changes tend to trigger unrest in a pregnant woman. However, the amount of rest will differ from person to person, but remember, your body will signal when it’s tired to pay attention.
Sometimes, it’s always best to resort to the old ways. Maintaing a journal or
writing things down can help one keep track of things that are important. Paste sticky notes on your refrigerator or your dressing room mirror. Keep a handy pad to log things that are important to you. For example, make note of the time you took those prenatal vitamins or cold medications, to avoid an overdose.
TECHNOLOGY TO THE RESCUE:
Modern-day tech or smartphones can double up as great reminders. One can set multiple alarms, calendar reminders, notes, etc., using what we have now begun to take for granted. In the early stages of pregnancy when the expecting mother is still working, laptops, tabs, and other gadgets can be better utilised to help with this lapse in memory.
Believe it or not, exercise does help in more ways than just weight management, despite being one of the most difficult things to follow. An expectant woman will anyways be asked to do a few pregnancysafe exercises, to help keep her active and healthy. But, exercise also serves as a way to manage pregnancy brain as physical activity can help a pregnant woman have a restful night’s sleep, as well as be alert during the day.
It is perfectly okay to forget things. It’s definitely not the end of the world. And if pregnancy brain is behind the forgetfulness, just remember that it’s not permanent. Moreover, there’s no point in worrying about other aspects that are all part and parcel of being pregnant. It won’t help ease the memory loss. In stead, keep in mind that your health is of utmost importance, and do a few breathing exercises to ease that anxiety.
SEEK HELP WHEN NECESSARY:
Reducing workload and anxiety by seeking help is one more step which can help destress an expectant mother, and improve her alertness while countering possible amnesia. This is also the best time to get your spouse involved in doing the dishes! Pragnancy brain can definitely be something to laugh about once you’ve welcomed your bundle of joy. Just remember, do your best to relax and accept things as they come, and your pregnancy can be an enjoyable ride.