The “Pregnancy Brain” Phenomena

Many mothers-to-be find themselves victims of what is known as ‘pregnancy brain’. This is a state of mind where you may be forgetful, scatterbrained or simply not feel as sharp as you normally do. Many mothers-to-be start feeling like this by the end of the first trimester and don’t loose this feeling till after giving birth.

Doctors are of two minds about this phenomena. First, there is not a shred of evidence suggesting that the brain has changed. No matter how forgetful or ditzy you may feel, your brain’s ability to reason have not changed. You are as smart as you ever were. And yet, at the very same time, you may be experiencing real difficulties with your memory. There are some good reasons as to why this may be.

Your pregnant brain is being exposed to between 15 to 40 percent more estrogen and progesterone than normal. Towards the end of the pregnancy, there will also be much higher levels of natural oxytocin as well. Each of these hormones affects the functioning of the brain’s neurological functions differently. Some of the hormones will affect how memories are formed, others affect spacial memory, still others attempt to rearrange a woman’s priorities.

Some evolutionary psychologists believe that this phenomena is an adaptation to force a new mother into focusing on childcare instead of other pursuits. In fact, the amount of time thinking about their future with the baby may also play into the loss of new memory formation. Instead, she is forming new frames for her self image and future expectations. So, in some ways, pregnancy brain may be a helpful phenomena.

There is the sleep deficit to think about, as well. Pregnant women and new mothers often are not getting enough deep unbroken sleep. It is a well known fact that lack of sleep negatively affects how well a person is able to think and function. Before giving birth, a woman may find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep due to discomfort in her body.

After giving birth, a woman who is attempting to shoulder the bulk of childcare may rack up a sleep deficit of over 700 sleep hours in just the first year. Put simply, her brain needs rest. In fact, less than a week of proper REM cycles and most women report a loss of ‘pregnancy brain’ and a return to normal feelings and capabilities.

If you find yourself suffering from pregnancy brain there are some things you can do to help. First, be sure that you are getting plenty of rest. This may be hard to do if you are a new mother. Enlist the help of your partner, your relatives or family friends. Second, make use of things like notebooks for note taking or daily planners. Finally, remember that this shall pass in time.