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Pregnancy Brain – Dealing with Memory Loss When You Are Expecting

By Published On: July 26th, 2012

That your life is going to be seriously impacted in a lot of ways once you give birth is obvious and there are lots of changes women go through during the course of their pregnancy as well. Weight gain, mood swings, nausea and other pregnancy related nasty are all things that women are expecting when they become pregnant . Even though they do not really like the idea one bit, they  know that it’s all pretty normal.

However when many pregnant women begin to get very forgetful they begin to worry a little. Often pregnant women will tell you that they lose their keys every day, forget the simplest of chores that they do every day and even begin to have problems remembering their friends and family’s names at times! It’s understandable that they begin to worry that they losing their minds – and that the condition might be permanent.

The good news is that pregnancy related memory loss does not seem to be permanent but that does not mean that it cannot be very frustrating, upsetting and make it hard to get through the day, especially if they are still working.

What Causes Pregnancy Related Memory Loss?

For years most of the information about pregnancy related memory loss was purely based on the anecdotes of thousands of pregnant women themselves and the amount of actual scientific research done into the issue was minimal and little was completed was inconclusive.

One study published in 2010 gave the biggest insight into how the hormonal changes in pregnancy might actually really play a part in pregnancy related memory loss. During the study, which was conducted at the University of Bradford in England, women who were in the second and third trimesters of their pregnancy were asked to take a number of different memory tests, as were the same amount of women of the same ages who were not expecting. The women all came from similar backgrounds and also had similar levels of education to make things as balanced as possible.

What the researchers found was that the pregnant subjects scored far worse on spatial memory tests than their non expecting counterparts. Spacial memory relates to being able to recall things like where you parked your car and where you left your keys. They also scored far lower on mood level tests and showed higher levels of anxiety. And the higher the levels of a predetermined set of sex hormones that all the women were being monitored for, the worse the scores seemed to get.

The conclusion of the research was that the increase in sex hormones in the body of a pregnant woman may indeed affect the parts of the brain that are responsible for certain short term memory functions. But the research also found that for many of the women 3 months after they had given birth and their hormones were balancing back out their memory test scores improved. More work does need to be completed to understand more but there certainly does seem to be a certain biological link!

Other Reasons for Pregnancy Related Memory Loss

There are other reasons why pregnancy and memory loss seem to go hand in hand. It’s hard to remember things when you are very distracted and often under stress – situations that pregnant women encounter a lot. And the lethargy that many pregnant women have to deal with does not help either – it’s hard to have a sharp focused mind when all you really want to do is go to bed!

Tips and Tricks to Improve Your “Pregnancy Brain”

Even though it seems that memory loss pregnant women experience is temporary that does not make it any easier to deal with at the time. Although there is no “magic bullet” there are some things you can do that can help sharpen up your pregnancy brain a little, or at least make living with it a little easier. Here are a few things to try:

Play a Game – You can keep your brain a bit sharper by playing a simple video game. Memory related games are the best choice of course. Borrow a Nintendo device and play a brain challenge game like Brain Academy or sign up for a site like Neuro Nation or Fit Brains which both offer brain challenging but fun games at no charge. These challenges should help to keep your brain agile and you might even learn some new things as well!

Eat Some Brain Food – A lot of the nice healthy food you are eating while you are pregnant is good for your brain as well, especially foods that are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids like salmon and kidney beans. Berries are also packed full of antioxidants that help keep your brain protected from free radical damage and they certainly also make a nice healthy treat and a change from sticky, bad for you sweets.

Get Enough Rest – Fighting the urge to sleep when your body is telling you to is like fighting a losing battle when you are pregnant and one that you really shouldn’t engage in. Not getting enough sleep makes pregnancy brain worse and its not good for your overall health either. There will be a lot of sleepless nights on the way after Baby is born so for a thousand different reasons, including trying to stay as mentally sharp as possible, getting your beauty sleep and getting enough of it is very important.

In the end, pregnancy memory loss is almost always a temporary condition. And on the upside a number of recent studies have shown that women who are Mummies may have more agile and reactive brains than those who are not and Dads too.

One study, carried out on rats – found that maternal rats navigated a maze three times faster on average than non maternal rats. Now you are not a rat of course but the brain functions between humans and rats are comparable to a certain extent.

Another very interesting study, this time conducted by the Biological Psychiatry Institute, discovered that parents of both sexes actually have different patterns of brain activation than men and women who were not parents in response to the sounds of babies. The researchers found that the regions of parents’ brains that are tied to emotional processing reacted considerably more strongly to crying and that non-parents’ brains responded more to laughter, making that whole parents’ instinct thing sound a lot more rational too!