Until recently, preggie brain, momnesia, or pregnancy forgetfulness was mostly anecdotal. However, new research shows that there are significant reasons that cause this forgetfulness and they’re important, both for mom and the new baby. So if you can’t remember what you had for lunch and constantly lose your car keys, here’s why.
Which areas are most affected in the brain?
The areas that are most significantly changed are those related to social cognition and theory of mind. For us non-scientists, that means the areas related to relationships, intuition and attachment. This means that your brain physically changes to make you a mom. Additionally, while some areas of memory might be impaired, making you forget insignificant (but annoying) things, your ability to learn and understand isn’t affected at all.
What do these changes mean?
When mothers appear to know exactly what their babies need through a few cries, a grunt and a grimace, many of us just stare in wonder. How do they know? Well, it turns out that these neural changes may be the key. According to a New York Times article, “both neuroscience and psychological research on attachment theory suggest a human mother’s brain has enhanced empathetic capacities, strengthening a mother’s ability to pick up on their baby’s nonverbal communications through facial expressions and cries.”
When do these changes start?
They can start early on in pregnancy and usually plateau from about the second trimester. But the memory lapses aren’t necessarily all neural. Pregnancy comes with waves of changes which can affect sleep and concentration. No-one is at their mental best when they’ve had minimal sleep and are thinking about a million different things. It’s understandable that your concentration may be divided when you are working a full-time job and growing a full human; your priorities have shifted. And it doesn’t stop when the baby is born. Oh no, then the sleep deprivation is ramped up to insane levels and the number of things to think and worry about multiplied. So if you forget the name of your great aunt’s daughter, we think you can be forgiven.
How long will this go on for?
The good news is it likely won’t be forever! The not-so-good news is that it might be as long as two years before you feel mentally yourself again. Hormones, neural changes and sleep deprivation all play a role in this, and every situation is different. It’ll come as no surprise to moms everywhere that they might feel like a whole different person after having a child. Your brain has literally changed. While your memory will probably return to normal eventually, don’t be surprised if the other stuff never goes away. There’s a reason they say once you’re a mother, you never stop.
So, there you have it. The ins and outs of why pregnant and new moms are so forgetful, why that’s so important and some great reasons to give yourself grace over it. If you’re really struggling to remember things, write down questions or concerns as you have them — in a notebook or on your phone — so that you don’t forget them forever. But if you start to forget important things, like strapping your baby into their car seat — ask for help. You need to get some decent shut-eye and a break to let your mom-brain recover.
- Changes in a Woman’s Brain: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/pregnancy-causes-lasting-changes-in-a-womans-brain/
- Reframing ‘Mommy Brain’: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/11/well/family/reframing-mommy-brain.html
- Pregnancy Brain: Myth or Reality?: https://www.webmd.com/baby/features/memory_lapse_it_may_be_pregnancy_brain#1