When you become pregnant, you can expect a lot of changes to happen to your body. The most obvious sign is that your belly will grow bigger as the months leading to the birth of your child progress. But there are other changes as well that may not be as pronounced as your expanding belly. Suffering from leg cramps, insomnia, morning sickness, backaches, and heartburn are just some of these.
But the most obvious of all is what is known as “pregnancy brain.”
Pregnant women may experience the symptoms of pregnancy brain as early as the first trimester. Expect to have these symptoms last throughout your pregnancy. Know also that it is a common occurrence among pregnant women and it shouldn’t be a cause for too much concern.
But just the same, awareness of it is important. At least you’ll know it’s not just a figment of your imagination!
Read on for a better understanding of pregnancy brain, its causes, and how you and other pregnant women can deal with it.
What exactly is pregnancy brain?
If you are a first time mom and you suddenly notice more frequent episodes of forgetfulness or feeling distracted, it’s not all in your head. Pregnancy brain refers to your time being pregnant and having a hard time struggling to remember details, focus on tasks, or give your undivided attention to anything.
From having a razor sharp memory, you suddenly couldn’t figure out where you put the mobile phone you were just holding a few minutes ago. Despite a frantic search in your purse and around the house, it is nowhere to be seen, only to miraculously resurface later in the freezer.
Or let’s say you head down to the supermarket to get milk. You wrap up your trip to the grocery and go home, only to find that there is no milk as you unpack.
These stories may sound too silly to be real, but for pregnant women, they’re true plenty of times.
These are the mental shifts or physiological brain alterations that happen to pregnant women’s bodies. And if you expect the mental fog to lift after you give birth, you may be in for a disappointment as fluctuations in your hormones may continue to affect your mental capacities. For the next few months or so after birth, the pregnancy brain will transform into what is known as the mommy brain.
What are the causes of pregnancy brain?
There are plenty of reasons for pregnancy brain. These include the following:
The physical changes in our bodies include a surge of hormones brought about by pregnancy. Some studies indicate that the level of hormones during pregnancy increase by as much as 40 times than the normal level of hormones.
Doctors believe that this more-than-normal increase in hormones may induce cognitive missteps such as the inability to think clearly, forgetfulness, or being prone to distractions. In fact, a study has shown that pregnant women scored significantly less in a memory test compared to non-pregnant women
So yes, go ahead, you can lay all the blame on your fluctuating hormones!
The quality of your sleep
Sleeping less than the prescribed hours of sleep per day affects our cognitive functioning. In general, people are advised to have a full night of rest and sleep when they have something big in school or work the following day. This is to make sure that they have all their mental faculties with them. The recommended sleeping time is at least eight hours per day, right?
Well, for pregnant women, sleeping eight hours is a luxury. It is difficult to get a good night of rest and sleep when there are so many things happening in our bodies. Add to the reality that sometimes, babies kick at very inopportune times, making moms get up and have to go to the bathroom when they’d rather be sleeping! In fact, during the first year after birth, women sleep 700 less hours than normal.
In short, pregnant women’s shifting sleep patterns and habits lead to poor quality of sleep. It is also not uncommon for pregnant women to suffer from insomnia as a result.
While pregnancy is something that many women look forward to, it is not a bed of roses. In fact, it’s very stressful!
Pregnant women have a lot on their minds as they find themselves in the midst of bringing new life into the world. After all, the world doesn’t stop just because they are pregnant. They have to attend to their family and households, go to work, and so on. That’s on top of the things that they have to do during pregnancy such as pre-natal check-ups and taking care not just of themselves but of their babies.
The additional stress and anxiety that pregnant women have to go through may contribute to a decrease in mental alertness and capacities.
How do you cope with pregnancy brain?
While pregnancy brain will be there to stay for a while, you can deal with it better by doing the following:
Get quality sleep.
Sleep helps our brain to rest and relax. Good slumber also promotes a conducive environment for the intricate wirings in our brain to establish the connections needed for our brains to run at optimal capacity.
Make sure that you get the right amount of sleep every night. Establish a bedtime routine to train your body and brain that it is bedtime for you. And most of all, resist the temptation to browse through Facebook or finish some shows on Netflix. You need sleep!
Be mindful of what you eat.
There are brain foods that could help promote increased cognitive functioning through brain cell build-up, improving brain cell communication, and memory sharpness. These include fish that contain Omega 3 fatty acids or blueberries that contain antioxidants. Eggs and spinach also contain vitamins and minerals that help in optimal brain functioning.
Make sure that you include more of these items in your grocery list so that your food intake helps keep your brain and body healthier.
Drink lots of water.
Dehydration affects our brain’s ability to work optimally. Make sure to drink plenty of water. And if ever you have started breastfeeding, additional water intake is recommended. Remember, you are eating and drinking for two!
Exercise your brain.
Brain activity exercises such as doing crossword puzzles, chess, or board games may help train your brain to retain or even improve its level of mental alertness and cognitive function. You can also download apps which you can play in your spare time that can help train your brain and improve your memory.
Get support while dealing with pregnancy brain.
If you feel that you need further support during your pregnancy journey, especially in dealing with pregnancy brain, Northeast Doulas is here for you. Our doula can be your source of support as you navigate your new life. We have been providing families in the Greenwich, Fairfield, Westchester and NYC areas with the best trained doulas available. We’d be glad to do the same for you.
Contact us today to get started. We look forward to being on this pregnancy journey with you.