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Pregnancy Brain: Is it Real or All in Your Head?

May 16, 2024

With everything new that comes with pregnancy, including doctor's appointments, dietary adjustments, uncomfortable symptoms, and changes to your body, it’s understandable that many pregnant people experience memory issues. But is pregnancy brain an actual medical condition? Here are the facts.

What is pregnancy brain, and what causes it? 

Pregnancy brain refers to the forgetfulness or absentmindedness that accompanies pregnancy,” said Julia Youssef, M.D., Obstetrics and Gynecology Physician at Inspira Medical Group. “About 50 to 80 percent of pregnant people report memory problems during pregnancy, but studies about the actual presence of memory deficits vary.” 

Although researchers are still working to determine what causes pregnancy brain, they have a few theories. Forgetfulness could be the result of hormone surges that happen during pregnancy. Additionally, fluctuating hormones can cause changes in your mood or sleep patterns, leading to memory problems. Environmental changes, such as stress, sleep deprivation and day-to-day distractions or interruptions could also be at fault. 

There is also evidence of a significant decrease in the brain’s grey matter during pregnancy. This phenomenon could be the brain's way of making space for things like emotional regulation and parental motivation—a potential result of evolution so new parents can focus on caring for their new baby and forget about less important things. 

Symptoms of pregnancy brain 

Cognitive changes during pregnancy can vary. You may find yourself misplacing your keys, forgetting appointments, having trouble remembering names or words or forgetting why you came into a room. Although we all experience these symptoms at one time or another, they could happen more frequently during pregnancy and postpartum

How long does pregnancy brain last? 

Everyone’s experience with pregnancy brain is different, and some people may experience more cognitive changes than others. “Pregnancy brain may occur as early as the first trimester, but symptoms can also appear any time during pregnancy and postpartum,” said Dr. Youssef. “While you might feel back to normal a few weeks after childbirth, you could still experience cognitive issues into your child’s toddler years.” 

Coping with cognitive issues during pregnancy 

There aren’t any medical treatments for pregnancy brain, but there are lifestyle changes you can make to help you cope. The most important thing you can do is set up a consistent evening routine to help you get more sleep—avoid screens before bed, practice mindfulness, and create a relaxing and restful sleep environment. 

You can also improve your memory by simplifying your life. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your partner, friends, or family, and delegate tasks wherever you can. There’s also nothing wrong with writing to-do lists, setting reminders, and keeping a calendar to help you remember things. For a fun way to deal with pregnancy brain, try some brain-boosting games like wordle, sudoku, or crossword puzzles. 

If you’re pregnant and experiencing forgetfulness, be kind to yourself. Most pregnancy-related memory changes are temporary, and these mistakes happen to the best of us. “If you’re concerned about the level of cognitive problems you’re experiencing, reach out to your health care provider,” said Dr. Youssef. “They can help evaluate your brain function and give you some tactics to combat brain fog.” 

Inspira offers comprehensive, specialized care for both you and your baby. To learn more about our maternity services, visit us here or call 888-31-BIRTH.

Topics: Maternity, Women's Health