Whether you call it baby brain. Brain fog or pregnancy brain. If you’ve experienced the symptoms it can be one of the most frustrating and misunderstood symptoms of pregnancy and early motherhood. A recent report in the Medical Journal of Australia has found that it’s not a myth. But a set of measurable changes in the brain that occur during pregnancy and gradually fade away afterwards.
The study looked at how pregnancy affects memory, attention-span, decision-making and planning abilities. Drawing on twenty previous studies ad examining over 700 pregnant and 500 non-pregnant women to explore who they performed on tests. The results? Pregnant women did less well with tasks related to memory and decision-making. Their abilities declined throughout pregnancy. So by their third trimester they were performing worse than in their first trimester.
It’s important to remember that while baby brain is annoying, it’s not generally substantial. Women in the test group performed within the normal range. It just took them more mental effort and time to achieve the same results. In other words – while expectant mums often feel they are struggling. Their achievements are generally the same as before. It’s just more demanding on them to get there.
How to cope with baby brain
Rest, rest and more rest
Not necessarily sleep, just rest. For many expectant mothers and new mums sleep becomes an obsession, and that can contribute to stress levels which make brain fog even worse. Resting, whether or not you sleep. Can help your brain relax and a relaxed brain actually functions better. The brain’s glymphatic system uses sleep to clean toxins from the brain. But if we’re getting less sleep then obviously this cleansing can’t happen. However, when we rest regularly, we fall asleep quicker and more deeply when sleep is possible. Allowing the brain to activate the glymphatic system and scour away toxins that lead to impaired brain function. Hiring a night maternity nurse can really help improve your sleep hygiene.
Take a hike
Any form of exercise will improve brain cell production fourfold. For expectant mothers and new parents this can be a chore. But asking your maternity nurse to supervise baby while you go for a relaxing walk is as effective as an exercise class in re-booting your brain.
Get in touch
We all know that touching our babies gives them a stimulated brain and a sense of love and belonging. But the same is true for mothers experiencing baby brain. So while it’s great for you to cuddle your little one, it’s also a good idea to give yourself a structured programme of positive touch. It might be something like going out for a couple of hours pampering at a local spa. Or as simple as a hot stone massage or pedicure at home. Making a regular commitment to receiving positive touch will help your brain relax and create oxytocin. A hormone that increases brain size and improves the immune system.