The re­al­ity of mom­ne­sia

Mother & Baby - - CONTENTS -

“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.


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.


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.


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.

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