‘Baby Brain’ is a term used to refer to a pregnant women’s experience of ‘brain fog’ or forgetfulness, particularly during the third trimester. So, what is actually happening to the brain during pregnancy, and does it really make you more forgetful?
Studies show that pregnant women’s brains can become a bit scattered, though they are still capable of focusing when it is required; they may put the cereal in the fridge and the milk in the pantry, but their ability to do their job, for instance, will likely remain the same.
Compared to non-pregnant women, pregnant women can show lower levels of general cognitive function, memory, and executive functioning including planning and remembering instructions. These abilities also seem to decrease mostly toward the later stages of pregnancy.
What causes the baby's brain?
Scientists don’t know for sure what causes the baby brain, but the working theory is that a reduction in the grey matter may be at play. It is likely that grey matter decreases in order to give more importance to areas of the brain responsible for things like empathy, bonding with baby, social cognition, and other areas associated with child-rearing.
Another theory is that sleep deprivation is the main culprit. Estrogen enhances cognitive function and estrogen levels are almost never higher than during pregnancy; pregnancy itself could actually sharpen the mind, but the resulting stress, loss of sleep, and lifestyle change could lead to forgetfulness and fogginess.
Baby brain is real, but not always a big deal
Pregnant women with ‘baby brain’ are still functioning within normal levels of cognitive function, though at times this level may be lower than what is usual for the individual. The changes this causes though, are small and generally only you and those very close to you will notice. Baby brain may cause you to forget about an appointment, or leave your keys in the fridge, but it usually won’t stop you from being able to complete a task you can usually do.
Try to manage baby brain by:
- Prioritizing sleep
- Keeping a calendar
- Making to do lists
- Writing down important things
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Continuing with a pregnancy safe exercise routine