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Published

May 3, 2022

Updated

August 9, 2022

Pregnancy Brain: What You Need to Know

Pregnancy brain refers to forgetfulness and memory problems that some expecting people experience during pregnancy.

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Pregnancy brain is a common condition that affects most women during pregnancy and into motherhood. Some women experience heightened forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, and a diminished ability to focus. These symptoms can become even more severe as the pregnancy progresses and is more pronounced after giving birth.

What is "Pregnancy Brain?"

What is pregnancy brain? Many women will describe pregnancy brain as a side effect of being pregnant, but others associate it with new motherhood as well. It is characterized by the tendency to forget important dates and events, the inability to recall words, and disorganization.

How the Brain Changes in Pregnancy

During pregnancy, a woman's body goes through a remarkable transformation. As the baby grows, the body will produce new cells, and it may also destroy some existing ones. Cells in the hippocampus -- the area of the brain that helps us process memories -- are destroyed.

Impacts on Memory

From the beginning of your pregnancy, you may find that your short-term memory becomes a little fuzzy, and you experience lapses in concentration. These difficulties can have a significant impact on your everyday functioning as you move into the second trimester and beyond.

The good news is that many of these symptoms will pass in a few weeks or months, but for many women, there are potential problems.

Changes in Mood

Though you may be cheerful about the impending birth of your baby, you are also likely to experience mood swings and feelings of sadness. You may become extremely irritable and experience intense mood swings or cry unexpectedly for no apparent reason.

Alterations in Gray Matter

Women experiencing the stresses of pregnancy and parenthood had noticeable changes in their brain’s gray matter. Specifically, the volume of gray matter in the hippocampus (a brain region associated with memory and learning) decreased by almost 11 percent from pregnancy to postpartum.

Causes of Brain Changes

If you find yourself having problems with brain fog, forgetfulness, and poor attention and concentration, you may be experiencing "mommy brain".

Hormones

"Your pregnancy brain is just an extreme case of what all women experience," says Sherry Amatenstein, M.D., a New York City psychiatrist and author of The Maternal Anxiety Solution .

Sleep Deprivation

Although baby blues are typically a short-term condition, they can lead to more serious symptoms. Some of these symptoms may include excessive crying, mood swings, and loss of appetite. The baby blues usually begin two weeks after the birth of your child and can last anywhere from one to four weeks.

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