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Forgetfulness During Pregnancy: Causes and Management Tips

Forgetfulness During Pregnancy: Causes and Management Tips

Aside from the common changes women encounter while they’re pregnant, one of the complaints of women is forgetfulness during pregnancy or also known as “baby brain”.

What is pregnancy brain?

Pregnancy brain refers to memory problems, lack of concentration, and being frequently preoccupied during a woman’s pregnancy and early postpartum.

According to a study, there is a notable deficiency in “general cognitive functioning, memory, and executive functioning” in pregnant women. It also found that forgetfulness is more noticeable in the third trimester of pregnancy.

What causes forgetfulness during pregnancy?

As of today, there is still no specific cause of why women suffer forgetfulness while pregnant. However, some factors can be considered as probable reasons why women experience forgetfulness during pregnancy. Here are some of them:

Hormones, anxiety, and depression

Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause several effects in a woman’s physical and physiological attributes. A study from the Bradford Institute for Health Research, found that pregnant women have shown more symptoms of anxiety and depression compared to non-pregnant women using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale.

The study also used Spatial Recognition Memory (SRM) tests. The SRM results show that women in the third trimester of pregnancy have scored sufficiently lower than the non-pregnant participants.

The SRM tests were taken by pregnant women in the first trimester of pregnancy. In the course of their pregnancy, the SRM tests were taken again, and the results were seemingly lower.

Although there are more symptoms of anxiety and depression in pregnant women, these symptoms do not affect their SRM results.

The elevation of pregnancy hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and cortisol might be causing “pregnancy brain”. However, researchers still continues to find scientific evidence to prove this claim.

Brain Structure Changes

Using MRI, researchers have found that specific parts of the brain’s gray matter shrink in size due to pregnancy. These parts of the brain is responsible for social cognition.

The changes in the brain structure continue for at least two years postpartum.

Although it causes forgetfulness during pregnancy, the shrinkage of these areas also results in the strengthening of maternal instincts. Because of these brain structure changes, the mother can decode signals to cater to the baby’s needs.

Stress

Pregnant women who are nearing their due date feel stressed both emotionally and physically. Stress brought upon by pregnancy is common since there are a lot of changes they need to go through during the span of their pregnancy until postpartum.

Stress can affect the brain health of pregnant women negatively. It might cause forgetfulness during pregnancy and problems with concentration.

Feeling stressed is normal because you worry about a lot of things that might happen to you or your child. However, taking a breather once in a while will help you to slowly get back on your feet.

Increase in responsibility

Being forgetful does not end after pregnancy. You can still have the “pregnancy brain” for quite some time after giving birth.

Added responsibilities might be another reason why your memory lapses. Doing lots of different tasks and activities daily while taking care of a newborn is too much hard work.

An increase in responsibilities might cause you to become easily distracted and inattentive. This might negatively affect your memory in the long run.

Your mind and body will slowly adjust to this new stage of your life and make your responsibilities lighter.

How to cope with forgetfulness

Being forgetful can be frustrating but there are steps you can take to cope with it. Here are some tips on how to overcome forgetfulness during pregnancy:

Have a to-do list

Writing down your tasks will help you remember all the things you need to accomplish. You can write your chores on sticky notes and place them in different areas of your house.

Use your phone calendar

You can set reminders on your phone calendar when you have appointments, meetings, or events. This way, you can be easily notified whenever there’s an activity coming up.

Do things one at a time

Do your tasks one at a time instead of juggling all your work at the same time. As much as possible, avoid multitasking as it can make forgetfulness during pregnancy worse.

Be gentle with yourself

You don’t need to finish all your daily tasks in one go. Take a rest or have a little bit of “me time” to get your mind off of your responsibilities.

Ask for help

You don’t need to do everything by yourself. Asking for help is a great way to reduce stress and responsibilities. For example, you can ask your husband to take out the trash while you wash the dishes or vice versa.

Eat healthily

Consuming foods that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids are great for you and your baby’s overall brain health and development.

Exercise

Even if you’re pregnant or a new mom, it’s still nice to stay active. Exercising releases happy hormones (endorphins) that can help battle out stress, depression, and anxiety.

Sleep well

We know that sleep is a luxury for pregnant and postpartum women, but sleeping or taking a few naps while you can during the day can help freshen up your memory.

Lack of sleep can weaken brain function and make your “pregnancy brain” worse.

Key takeaways

Forgetfulness during pregnancy can be frustrating and worrying at the same time. Being forgetful, especially when doing important tasks can make you feel anxious and stressed.

However, taking time for yourself and slowly adjusting to changes can exponentially help you bounce back to normal. Asking for help and sharing your thoughts with your partner can help ease your situation.

Learn more about pregnancy, here.

 

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Cognitive Impairment During Pregnancy: A Meta-Analysis Volume 208, Issue 1 https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2018/208/1/cognitive-impairment-during-pregnancy-meta-analysis Accessed July 1, 2020

Assessment of Cognitive Function Across Pregnancy Using CANTAB: A Longitudinal Study https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24321198/ Accessed July 1, 2020

Does “Baby Brain” Really Exist? https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/expert-answers/baby-brain/faq-20057896 Accessed July 1, 2020

Pregnancy Leads to Long Lasting Changes in Human Brain Structure  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27991897/ Accessed July 1, 2020

How Pregnancy Changes the Brain https://www.brainfacts.org/brain-anatomy-and-function/body-systems/2018/how-pregnancy-changes-the-brain-022818 Accessed July 1, 2020

Memory Loss in Pregnancy: Myth or Fact?  https://www.ifwip.org/memory-loss-pregnancy-baby-brain-momnesia/ Accessed July 1, 2020

 

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Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao Updated May 27
Medically reviewed by Mary Rani Cadiz, M.D.
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