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Home > Learn > Pregnancy > >Pregnancy Brain Fog: Fact or Fiction?

Pregnancy Brain Fog: Fact or Fiction?

Oct 09, 23 5 min

By Dr. Kenosha Gleaton, OBGYN

Pregnancy And Your Brain

Pregnancy is a transformative experience that can lead to lasting change. A lot of us are aware of the effects pregnancy can have on the body- the stretching of our organs and skin, changes in hair, widening of the hips, and so on. Until somewhat recently, very few researchers were studying the effects pregnancy has on the brain. Our brain is the most complex part of the body and hosts all the necessary neurons and pathways that allow us to speak, move, think, and feel. [1] 

Some new studies are beginning to measure the relationship between pregnancy and the brain, and the results have been quite interesting. We’ve learned that the brain actually decreases in size during pregnancy, that pregnancy can alter the trajectory of brain aging, and that certain glands and matter in the brain also change in size as a result of pregnancy. [2] What we’re still trying to determine is why these changes occur and the full effects they may cause.  

What Is Pregnancy Brain Fog?

Pregnancy brain fog, also known as pregnancy brain, mom brain, etc. describes the forgetfulness, poor concentration, memory issues, and other symptoms experienced by some pregnant people. [3] Those with pregnancy brain fog may notice they are more frequently misplacing items, forgetting about appointments, having trouble concentrating, etc. While pregnancy brain isn’t a physically obvious symptom like stretch marks, swelling, or acne, it can still be a troubling and bothersome side effect of pregnancy. [3] There are a few potential theories as to what causes brain fog, including physical changes to the brain, hormone fluctuations, lack of sleep, nutrition, and more. [2-4] 

Is Pregnancy Brain Fog Real Or A Myth?

While it may seem that pregnancy brain is just a myth, there is evidence that suggests that pregnancy may lead to diminished cognitive function, behavioral shifts, mood swings, memory problems, and more. [2-4] We’re still learning more about pregnancy brain, so there isn’t a lot of information available at this time to give a definitive cause, treatment, or timeline, but it certainly isn’t a myth. 

With pregnancy comes an increase in certain hormones, a decrease in gray matter, difficulty falling or staying asleep, and some stress and anxiety. All of these changes are theorized as potential causes of pregnancy brain fog. 

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Common Pregnancy Brain Symptoms

Pregnancy brain symptoms may vary slightly from person to person but generally consist of forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, brain fog, etc. Here are a few examples of what someone with pregnancy brain fog may experience in a more frequent or recurring manner than usual:

  • Forgetting or losing your wallet, keys, purse, phone, or other items 
  • Forgetting about appointments
  • Losing track of time
  • Mental fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering tasks
  • Difficulty recalling basic information 

When to Seek Help

Having off-days from time to time is normal for anyone, especially if you’re pregnant. While there likely isn’t a reason to be concerned about a small mishap or a missed appointment, you should always speak to a healthcare provider if you’re experiencing new symptoms or are concerned about your health. It’s especially important to seek out medical help if your brain fog symptoms seem to be worsening, are constant, or if you are feeling lost, confused, having difficulty speaking, etc. In some cases, symptoms may be indicative of a more serious condition or illness. 

How to Cope With Pregnancy Brain Fog

So what can be done to manage pregnancy brain fog? Fortunately, most research suggests that symptoms will resolve a few weeks to a few months after giving birth, although some of the physical changes to the brain may be long-lasting. [2-4] There isn’t much to be done while pregnant to “cure” brain fog, but there are some methods you can try to reduce the severity of symptoms [5-7]:

  • Improve your sleep (get tips for reducing pregnancy insomnia here)
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Exercise regularly (with a provider’s approval)
  • Take your prenatal vitamins
  • Exercise your mind (crossword puzzles, word games, sudoku, reading)
  • Help yourself out: Use physical and electronic reminders for appointments, attach an Airtag or related product to items you misplace often, etc. 
  • Stay hydrated

What research has shown us is that certain vitamin deficiencies can worsen brain fog or contribute to a decrease in cognitive function. Healthy doses of vitamins and minerals like vitamin B12, omega fatty acids, vitamin K, and others may be helpful for improving energy levels and mental fatigue. [5] Additionally, getting adequate sleep every night and finding healthy ways to manage stress can greatly improve your focus, mood, and overall health. Support hydration, energy, and relaxation with the Natalist Drink Mix Duo. 

The good news is that your brain fog isn’t likely to last for much longer after you give birth. If your symptoms are severely impacting your day-to-day life, you should speak to a provider about your other management options. 

How Natalist Can Help

Whatever your pregnancy symptoms are,  try to remind yourself that pregnancy doesn’t last forever and there are many ways to manage and treat your symptoms. It is always best to see a healthcare provider if you’re experiencing any new symptoms, but rest assured that it’s normal for pregnancy to cause a long list of new sensations and experiences. Pregnancy brain fog can be frustrating and tiring, but keeping your body fueled with plenty of nutrients, rest, and water may help. If you’re looking for ways to support your nutrition, hydration, and comfort throughout your pregnancy and postpartum journey, Natalist has got you covered. Shop pregnancy products here. 

 

References:

  1. Brain Basics: Know Your Brain. National Institutes of Health (NIH). March 2023. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/public-education/brain-basics/brain-basics-know-your-brain
  2. Oatridge A, Holdcroft A, Saeed N, et al. Change in brain size during and after pregnancy: study in healthy women and women with preeclampsia. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2002;23(1):19-26.
  3. Henry JF, Sherwin BB. Hormones and cognitive functioning during late pregnancy and postpartum: a longitudinal study. Behav Neurosci. 2012;126(1):73-85. doi:10.1037/a0025540
  4. Davies SJ, Lum JA, Skouteris H, Byrne LK, Hayden MJ. Cognitive impairment during pregnancy: a meta-analysis. Med J Aust. 2018;208(1):35-40. doi:10.5694/mja17.00131
  5. Foods linked to better brainpower. Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School. March 2021. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/foods-linked-to-better-brainpower 
  6. Andrade C, Radhakrishnan R. The prevention and treatment of cognitive decline and dementia: An overview of recent research on experimental treatments. Indian J Psychiatry. 2009;51(1):12-25. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.44900
  7. Krishnan, K. Strategies for Busting Up Brain Fog. Cleveland Clinic. June 14 2022. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/brain-fog/

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