Have you experienced foggy thinking, memory loss or absentmindedness during pregnancy or the postpartum period? If you have, you are not alone. Until recently, there has been little research supporting “Mommy Brain.” Most of the evidence for pregnancy-related deficits in memory was anecdotal or based on self-report. However, a meta-analysis conducted in 2007 found that pregnant and postpartum women are significantly impaired on several measures of memory.
Now that we know “Mommy Brain” occurs during pregnancy and the postpartum period, we need to understand why memory loss happens. There is uncertainty about the mechanisms contributing to memory loss in pregnant women and women in the postpartum period. Such memory deficits have been attributed to the complex hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and birth. For some women impaired memory and concentration is due to postpartum hypothyroidism. Research has demonstrated that 70% of women with hypothyroidism in the postpartum period were more careless than women whose thyroid function was normal. Furthermore, some research speculates that pregnancy related hormones prime the brain to be open to reshaping following birth. In particular, one study found that following birth, mothers’ brains actually grew in areas like the hypothalamus, prefrontal cortex and amygdala. Brain growth in the hypothalamus, prefrontal cortex and amygdala following birth are suggested to motivate mothers to care for their infant. Some other mechanisms that are proposed to cause deficits in memory are changes in neurotransmitters and lifestyle factors.
Now that the scientific community recognizes “Mommy Brain,” more research needs to be conducted to understand the mechanisms associated with memory loss and also to find treatments/therapies to help mothers cope.
Presently, the suggestions made within the literature to help mothers cope with memory loss are nutrition, exercise and ginkgo biloba (discuss the use of this herbal medicine with your family physician if you are breast feeding).
Henry, J. D., & Rendell, P. G. (2007). A review of the impact of pregnancy on memory function. Journal Of Clinical & Experimental Neuropsychology, 29(8), 793-803. doi:10.1080/13803390701612209
PMDA Blog >