Pregnancy brain. Mommy brain. If you’ve been pregnant or are a mom, then odds are, you’ve experienced both of these phenomenon! You likely know first-hand how fuzzy and forgetful and (for lack of a better word) DUMB both pregnancy and mommy brain can make you feel.
Read on to learn more about these flaky, forgetful phenomenons!
Pregnancy Brain + Mommy Brain: Are They Even Real?!
Short answer: yes. Longer answer: It’s complicated, because pregnancy and mommy brain aren’t exactly what you think they are. Most of us just assume that pregnancy brain and mommy brain mean forgetfulness, or spaciness. And yes, that can be part of it. Likewise, healthcare professionals previously assumed that pregnancy and mommy brain were merely the byproduct of a lack of sleep and the numerous demands of caring for a newborn.
But new research indicates that pregnancy and motherhood actually changes the makeup of a mom’s brain….and those changes are permanent. Yes, failing to remember appointments or names can certainly be a symptom of those brain changes, but they add up to so much more than mere forgetfulness. For a detailed account of exactly what studies have found regarding mommy brain, read this great Atlantic article.
Pregnancy Brain + Mommy Brain: Why Do They Happen?
Hormones, for one — nothing throws a woman’s hormones out of whack quite like pregnancy! Hormones are largely responsible for causing pregnancy brain. A woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels spike 15 to 40 times their normal amounts during pregnancy, and these spikes have a definite neural impact (source). In other words, pregnancy hormones impact your brain circuitry. And then, of course, hormones are also at least partially to blame for the “new mom” fog that most of us find ourselves in during the first few weeks after birth.
But here’s something interesting: mommy brain is real, too. That is, the state of being mother to a child actually impacts brain structure and function. More specifically, in the first few months after your baby is born, you actually grow new gray matter (source). That’s right: moms have more gray matter! The verdict is still out on exactly why this happens and what it may mean (some early theories suggest that this increase in gray matter may be linked to postpartum depression and anxiety), but regardless, one thing is true: “mommy brain” is 100% real!
Pregnancy Brain and Mommy Brain and Sleep: Oh My!
There’s a lot of research to read up on when it comes to pregnancy and mommy brain, but here’s something to remember: SLEEP is a huge factor in both. Our team hears from moms all the time who tell us that their chronic, relentless sleep deprivation is making the usual symptoms of pregnancy brain and mommy brain so, so much worse. Forgetfulness, irritability, mood swings, depression, anxiety….endless sleep deprivation can both cause these problems and make them worse. That’s why getting a handle on your baby’s sleep problems and coaching your child towards sleep-filled nights and rested naps is so key. And we can help with that! Visit our Help Me Choose page to learn all about how we can help you and your family beat the chronic sleep deprivation.