No, it’s not your imagination: you really are losing your mind. Well…maybe not THAT, but during pregnancy (especially the third trimester), many women really do experience “placenta brain,” “baby brain,” or “pregnancy brain.” This typically manifests as forgetfulness or feeling “spacey,” and like so many other things in pregnancy, it’s due to hormones. Lack of sleep (hello constant bathroom trips) can also impact memory and focus, too – as can stress or anxiety. During the last trimester of pregnancy, brain cell volume actually decreases temporarily, further affecting cognition. Although it’s frustrating, the good news is that this is all situational, and it will pass, eventually.
A recent study found that first-time pregnancy actually changes a woman’s brain for at least 2 years, making them more alert to threatening situations and more responsive to their babies. The pregnancy brain fog usually starts to dissipate after the first 18-20 weeks of parenthood, but everyone is different.
To help you deal with pregnancy brain, here are some tips:
Write it down
Keep Post-It note pads around your house, and if you need to remember to do something, write it down and stick it somewhere obvious – the bathroom mirror, the side of your computer monitor, the inside of the front door – to remind you. If you’re more of a smartphone person, start using the Notes feature on your phone to make lists, and set your alarm for reminders.
Let it go!
Be like Elsa and Anna…sort of. You’ve got a lot on your plate during pregnancy; now’s the time to try and make things as easy as possible for you. Delegate things when you can, so you can keep your brainpower available for the most important things. Look at your to-do list and focus on one thing at a time, and though it might be hard, if you don’t get to the low-priority tasks, just shift them over to another day.
The usual go-to supplement for memory, gingko biloba, isn’t safe for pregnancy, but there are some things you can take: choline and omega-3 fatty acids. Choline is a mineral found in foods like spinach, poultry, pasta, and dairy, that can help boost a brain chemical called acetylcholine, which can help with memory. Omega-3s like DHA are nutrients that support healthy brain development and functioning, and can be found in things like salmon or fish oil capsules.
Try to get lots of sleep and rest. Pregnancy is exhausting – after all, you’re growing a human from scratch! Especially toward the end, when your night is filled with bathroom trips and tossing and turning, sleep can be elusive, making it extra important to get rest during the day. Fatigue can certainly contribute to mental weariness and forgetfulness, and add to stress, which further creates forgetfulness, creating a vicious cycle.
Remember, this too shall pass, and in the meantime, it always helps to try and laugh about memory mishaps.
Did you have pregnancy brain? How did you manage it?