Many pregnant moms vow that they are losing their memory and their minds at the same time! “Pregnancy brain” is a term commonly used to describe the forgetfulness that many women experience during pregnancy and the postpartum period. The verdict still appears to be out, however, on whether this pregnancy-related experience truly exists or is simply due to sleep deprivation, distraction, stress, depression or just an increased awareness that forgetfulness may occur.
According to Dr. Susan Benson, MD, OB/GYN with St. Vincent Fishers Hospital, pregnancy brain may be a real phenomenon. Benson says that many of her patients complain about forgetfulness, and a recent study evaluating brain signals in pregnant women demonstrated that they had increased activity in the portions of the brain that control feeling and emotion and less in the areas of logic and memory. This shift may be due to pregnancy hormones, and is thought to be a natural change that encourages maternal bonding with the developing fetus.
So, this frustrating forgetfulness may actually have bonding benefits for you and your baby! Instead of being hard on yourself during this time, be encouraged that your temporary memory loss may lead to a better relationship with your newborn. Here are a few helpful ways to cope and keep you from feeling like you’re losing your mind.
Write it down
Making lists is one of the best ways to keep track of your schedule. You may have been able to remember everything in your head before you became pregnant, but writing things down may be a better approach now. If you love old-fashioned paper and pen, pick out a pretty planner to jot down your appointments and lists. If you’re more high-tech, set your iPhone with reminders, add important phone numbers to your contacts right away and keep your passwords in your notes section (with password protection). As soon as pregnancy-related questions come to mind, jot them down for your next prenatal appointment. Keeping everything that you need to remember in one spot is key to eliminating frustration.
Create intentional routines
Most of us manage to make it through our daily tasks without much thought, but in pregnancy, creating specific routines may prevent us from washing our hair three times in a row, hunting for our keys for 30 minutes in the morning and showing up at work when we were supposed to be going to the dentist for an appointment.
Give your mind a break by creating intentional routines. Have a special spot for your keys and pattern yourself to put them there every time you enter the house. Use the same purse so you don’t absentmindedly grab the one without your wallet. Set your prenatal vitamins and any other medications in a visible place (out of reach of children) so you won’t forget to take them. In the evening, allow yourself time to think about what’s coming up the next day. This will keep you from forgetting something important when you are rushing out the door in the morning.
Get a second brain
Lastly, ask for help! Give your husband, partner, friends or whoever you’re with the job of being your second brain. You are much less likely to leave your purse at a restaurant if someone else has been tasked with reminding you to grab it. You will be asking for loads of help once the baby comes. Swallowing your pride and learning to ask for a little extra assistance now may be just what the doctor ordered.
Take time to take care of your pregnant self. Sleep when you’re tired, drink plenty of water and give your mind a break. Your body is growing an amazing little person – and a little forgetfulness may just be part of the process.
Dr. Emma Hostetter is a Fishers family physician and public health specialist. Find her blog “The Mom in Me, MD” on the Hamilton County Family web site or visit her at www.themominmemd.com.