Is “Pregnancy Brain” Real? Everything You Need to Know
It’s no secret that being pregnant brings a rush of changes into your life.
Some are welcome — feeling your little one kick before you meet them in person — and others…well, not so much.
Think: swollen ankles, having to pee every 15 minutes … and pregnancy brain.
If you’re expecting and you’ve found yourself doing odd things like putting your keys in the fridge or “losing” your sunglasses when they’re on your face, you might be experiencing this common phenomenon.
Read on to learn more — and find out why pregnancy brain is both common and no cause for alarm.
What Is Pregnancy Brain?
“Pregnancy brain” is a colloquial term used to describe a cluster of symptoms that start to appear when you’re pregnant.
Most of these symptoms affect how clearly someone can think. Ilana Muhlstein, M.S., R.D.N., a mom of three, and creator of 2B Mindset and 2B Pregnant, explains that pregnancy brain can be funny (when it only affects you) or frustrating (when it also affects other people, like co-workers).
“It can start any time during pregnancy, or even after the birth,” explains Yen Hope Tran, D.O., an obstetrician and gynecologist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in California.
That’s why it’s also sometimes called “mom brain,” “mom-nesia,” and “baby brain.”
Is Pregnancy Brain Real?
Yes, pregnancy brain is very real even though it’s not considered an official medical condition.
Though she says it’s not “biologically proven,” pregnancy brain is something Muhlstein experienced with every pregnancy.
Dr. Tran explains that though there are “natural changes that occur in the brain during and after pregnancy,” pregnancy brain usually happens if you’re not getting enough sleep.
Muhlstein says that it also stems from all the changes you go through during this time — and not just physically.
She underscores that your current body, lifestyle, environment, and future have all changed from before you were pregnant, and it’s so much “that you can’t really prevent that from distracting you a bit.”
Pregnancy Brain Symptoms
According to Dr. Tran, pregnancy brain symptoms can include:
- memory lapses
- general forgetfulness
- poor judgment
- “brain fog“
- jagged, “hormonal emotional ups and downs”
Though these are the better-known symptoms, they’re not the only ones. More infrequent symptoms, adds Dr. Tran, are:
- blurry vision
- an inability to concentrate
The most likely causes for those are stress and lack of sleep and the decrease of blood flow to the brain.
Within the context of your busy life, pregnancy brain symptoms can affect both your personal and professional life.
It’s not uncommon to forget project deadlines or to call someone back when you said you would.
That can cause a great deal of frustration and shame, Muhlstein explains.
At home, you may find yourself putting things in strange places, like the cereal in the fridge instead of the pantry.
The intensity of these symptoms varies from person to person.
“Pre-existing mental health problems may intensify or recede during pregnancy and after birth,” says Dr. Tran. And pregnancy brain may get worse if the new mom experiences postpartum depression.
Coping With Symptoms
Learning techniques to cope with pregnancy brain is important since, as Muhlstein points out, it doesn’t go away.
It “becomes a factor of life, and, with every kid, the factors increase,” she adds.
But you’re not doomed to mixing up dates and missing appointments forever.
“I find the best tool for helping pregnancy brain is sticking to a routine with your own self-care as much as possible,” says Muhlstein.
One way to do that is to use the 2B Pregnant core principles to “keep you more mindful and well-fueled.”
Dr. Tran is also an advocate for routines, especially since that helps you get more sleep.
She says the best way to prevent or minimize pregnancy brain is to avoid sleep deprivation.
“Sleep is best with a routine,” she explains, adding that “avoiding eating too large of meals and eating too close to bedtime” can also help you get quality zzzs.
When to Talk to Your Doctor
Don’t be overly concerned about pregnancy brain, says Dr. Tran, but do tell your healthcare provider about your symptoms.
And, she adds, these symptoms are common, so don’t stress over them.
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