There is a much changes in the body during pregnancy – your nose may change shape, your hips may expand permanently and the fetus may (temporarily) steal calcium from your bones.
But pregnancy can also affect your brain, both how you process information and your memory. It’s called the “pregnancy brain” or “baby brain,” but it mimics the symptoms of brain fog, which include forgetfulness, trouble thinking, grogginess, or difficulty finding the right words during a conversation.
“Sometimes referred to as baby brain or momnesia, pregnancy brain is a common form of forgetfulness that begins during pregnancy. Most experts attribute this to the hormone surge you get during pregnancy, which can be up to six times your pre-pregnancy levels. These hormones increase soon after pregnancy and increase sharply in the second and third trimesters,” says Maeva Althaus, obstetrician and doula at HypnoDoula Maeva.
Beforehand, we ask experts all about the pregnancy brain, including when the pregnancy brain starts, what causes it, and if it’s treatable.
Is the pregnancy brain real?
Although some people dispute the validity of the pregnancy brain, most experts agree that it is a real phenomenon.
“The majority of women report some form of pregnancy brain during pregnancy or after childbirth. Additionally, some studies have found that women have decreased memory and scores on cognitive and executive function tests, suggesting it’s a real phenomenon,” says Lisa Becht, MD, FACOG, and Board Certified Reproductive Endocrinologist at HRC Fertility .
A 2021 report published in Scientific Reports examined 40 pregnant and non-pregnant women and found a memory impairment in pregnant women — and “in addition, language skills, particularly naming, were also impaired,” the researchers said. A small study, but a study nonetheless.
Baby brain symptoms can vary by person and can go up and down during pregnancy, but can also include absent-mindedness, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, and difficulty multitasking. For the most part, says Dr. Becht, Pregnancy Brain is exactly the same as Brain Fog but specifically for pregnancy.
When does the pregnancy brain begin?
While everyone’s pregnancy experience is different, Althaus says most of her clients have experienced some form of pregnancy brain during their years as a doula, and it can start sooner than you might think.
“The pregnancy brain begins a hormonal surge shortly after conception, which becomes more significant in the second and third trimesters. Many women experience a particularly noticeable pregnancy brain in the third trimester,” she says.
What Causes Pregnancy Brain?
Like most changes during pregnancy, baby’s brain fog is related to hormones. “The high and fluctuating hormone status during pregnancy and postpartum can affect the brain and cause physiological changes that result in a gestational brain,” says Dr. right In addition, stress, changes in sleeping habits, and other physical changes during pregnancy can affect the intensity of symptoms, she says.
While it sounds like a pain, it’s believed that the pregnancy brain is actually your body’s way of focusing on the needs of a future child and letting the rest take a backseat. “There has been research that has focused on looking specifically and directly at things cognitive [function] — as well as actual structural brain changes from MRI — in pregnant women,” says Kecia Gaither, MD, a dual residency certification in gynecology and maternal fetal medicine and director of perinatal services/maternal fetal medicine at NYC Health. “Gray matter appears to decrease in those areas of the brain responsible for processing and responding to social cues. These changes are intended to enable mothers to better respond to the needs of their infants.”
How Long Does Brain Fog Last During Pregnancy?
For most people, pregnancy lasts until after the birth, with different people feeling back to normal on their own individual schedule.
A 2016 study published in Nature Neuroscience suggests that pregnancy can have a long-lasting impact on brain structure, although this is unclear Exactly how these findings may affect gestational brain duration.
Of course, you’ll likely be somewhat sleep deprived right after the baby is born, and it can be difficult to distinguish between pregnancy brain and fatigue.
take that away? You need to give yourself some time and patience as your body adjusts to so many changes.
Can You Treat Pregnancy Brain Fog?
While there’s no cure, a consistent sleep schedule is key to managing the effects of the pregnancy brain, says Dr. right Exercise and good nutrition can also help with symptoms.
Pregnancy and adjusting to life after childbirth may not always be easy, but if you have trouble concentrating or feel confused, contact your doctor for support and advice.