Mommy Brain...Yes, It is REAL

A lot of women think that once they have their baby that everything will turn back to normal, but unfortunately this is not true. We all know that “Pregnancy Brain” is real and can actually affect a woman in her postpartum stage as well.

Mommy Brain is real. Here are some helpful ways to help you deal with the foggy head feeding you may be experiencing.

What Causes Mommy Brain?

A team of British researchers led by London anesthesiologist Anita Holdcroft, M.D., scanned the brains of 10 pregnant women who were in their final two months of pregnancy and then again at two and six months postpartum. Holdcroft’s original objective was to look for swollen air passages and changes in brain size in pregnant women with preeclampsia. She was shocked to learn that instead of swelling, the subjects’ brains were smaller during pregnancy than after delivery. “Brain cell volume actually decreases in pregnancy,” Holdcroft says. “The changes are not that big, but they are measurable.” Speculating that hormonal alterations of brain metabolism are responsible for the shrinkage, Holdcroft found similar changes in brain volume in menstruating women. She since has launched a larger study of pregnant women to test the hormone theory.

The link between brain contraction and so-called “pregnancy-induced slowness” is not clear, but research conducted earlier this year by University of Southern California psychologist J. Galen Buckwalter, Ph.D., suggests that pregnant brains not only shrink, but they also suffer impaired cognitive functioning. Buckwalter, who has likened pregnancy to “a big assault on the brain,” tested 19 highly educated pregnant women whose average IQ was about 110. He found that all of the subjects had experienced depressed functioning of their concentration and short-term memory. In addition, the women’s ability to learn and retain new information was reduced. In a test of how well pregnant vs. non-pregnant women with similar IQs learned new information, the pregnant subjects scored in the lowest 5 percent.

How Long Does Mommy Brain Last?

Having this brain shrinkage is part of the normal body changes that take place when a woman is pregnant according to Holdcroft’s study. Thankfully, the grey matter does seem to plump back up to normal size during postpartum.

Laugh it off

You may find that you don’t remember your husband’s name or what you went into the kitchen to do, but you should very proud of yourself and impressed that you can remember your pediatrician’s phone number without even looking at it. You can also remember how to breastfeed in the dark while running on very little sleep.

Helpful Tips

You can do some creative things to help you remember how and when to do things. You can set reminders in your calendar. You can jot stuff down in your note section of your phone, send yourself a voicemail, and even take a screen shot of things to help remind yourself of something your saw. You can go old school and use Post-it notes around your house, in your car and at work.

Let’s Be Honest…

My “Mommy Brain” has never fully gone back to how it was prior to having children and probably never will. My children are 16, 13, and 9. I have noticed that my “Mommy Brain” is a lot worse when I am  menstruating.

There are many times that I forget what I was trying to say or why on earth I went into my room. I honestly believe it is because moms have so much on their mind. We are tying to do so many things all the time. Multitasking here and there. We also tend to worry more and sleep less than our husband/partner does. Also, another big factor is stress.

There are many ideas out there on how to solve this. Some of those are getting your thyroid checked, not eating gluten, more sleep, get more exercise, and eat healthy. If you feel like this is something more that the normal “Why am I in the bathroom again?” thoughts, you can always seek help from your health care provider.

Kim Sabin