Forgetfulness and absent-mindedness are such common complaints among pregnant women that they’ve been assigned nicknames such as “pregnesia,” “baby brain” and “momnesia.”
“I hear about it all the time from my patients,” said Dr. Lisa Wilson , an OB-GYN at Novant Health Providence Obstetrics and Gynecology in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Most complain about difficulty remembering things and it’s distressing to them.”
Despite the cute name, being forgetful and feeling foggy can be no fun, particularly when women worry that their pregnancy is harming their memory and ability to think.
Does “baby brain” really exist? Medical science is of two minds when it comes to an answer.
Pregnancy does not change a woman’s brain, even though some women might not feel as sharp as they normally do. Researchers in Australia concluded in their study that pregnancy and motherhood are not associated with “persistent cognitive deterioration.”
Pregnancy had a mild effect on women’s cognitive ability, according to another study , but researchers wondered whether cultural stereotypes about baby brain didn’t impact the pregnant women’s perception about their own forgetfulness.
There’s no doubt that other causes may contribute to forgetfulness during pregnancy including lack of sleep, anxiety about a major life change and hormonal changes. “We think it’s hormonal, though it’s not clear,” Wilson said.
Wilson said she hears complaints about absentmindedness mostly in her patients in their second and third trimester of pregnancy. She reminds them that it is not a permanent condition or an indication of early dementia. The doctor will also question her patients about the quality of their sleep because poor sleep can affect memory among other things.
Wilson suggested slowing down a bit. “Don’t multitask,” she said. “Be more attentive to things. Write things down or set reminders on your smartphone.” If you need to remember something – questions for your doctor, groceries to buy, calls to make – leave yourself a list in an obvious place.
The pregnancy website “What to Expect” has the following additional tips:
- Take a deep breath. Don’t get frustrated. Stress will only increase your confusion.
- Have a backup system. Reduce the number of things you need to remember by asking others for help.
- Have a sense of humor. See the humor in some of the crazy predicaments your absent-mindedness may cause.
- Get your choline. This mineral helps form a memory-boosting chemical called acetylcholine. Eat choline-rich foods like spinach, eggs, nuts, beans and fish to boost brain function.
- Chow down on omega-3s. Salmon, soy beans, eggs, green leafy vegetables and nuts are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids that support healthy brains.
Childbirth is unpredictable — but thinking through your preferences ahead of time can make you feel more confident the day of. Download our birth preparation guide.