Pregnant Brain

September 24, 2008

Where Did I Put My Keys? Pregnancy Forgetfullness

There is a plethora of theories surrounding the part of pregnancy that encompasses the loss of memory. What loss of memory, you ask? Well, that would be when you put your keys down and walk away, and in 30 seconds or less you can't remember where you put them. Or, you stop talking mid-sentence and forget what you were saying. Everyone goes through that, you say. We don't know about everyone, but in fact, many pregnant women certainly do. Over the years this so-called condition has been coined "pregnant brain."

It's All In The Head: Brain Size and Pregnancy

Is it a real phenomenon or not? It appears that it is a real event. Research has now provided proof that during the last trimester particularly, a woman's brain actually shrinks - some say between 3-5 percent and others say between 4-8 percent. Regardless which percentage group you choose, the fact remains that something happens within the brain of a pregnant woman which causes her brain to shrink in size when she's pregnant. Heavens, that may mean that a woman with several kids could end up with a brain the size of a walnut! Not really, because the same studies show that brain size returns between a few weeks to a few months after the birth of the baby.

Pregnancy Memory Loss and Other Considerations

There are also other factors which are taken into consideration when it comes to memory loss during pregnancy. It has been suggested that the change in sleep patterns during pregnancy affect the ability to remember information and also that the plethora of thoughts, fears and concerns which can plague a woman's thinking also serve to dull her memory. Then there's the idea that a deficiency of iron could be causing the problem. If your body is short on iron, which fuels hemoglobin production for both you and your baby, you will likely develop iron-deficiency anemia. Common effects of anemia are fatigue, weakness, crankiness and (here it comes) forgetfulness. Your little baby has been taking up the bulk of your iron reserves from about the 12th week of pregnancy, so you'll need to bolster your supplies.

Are You Losing Your Mind or Do You Have Pregnancy Brain?

It's Pregnancy Hormones!  But We Knew That

And then there's hormones - ah yes, hormones. Back to the brain shrinkage information. Research indicates that a pregnant woman's brain gets smaller in the third trimester and that brain cell volume decreases during pregnancy, plumping up again after the baby is born. The researchers have speculated that it is hormones that cause the shrinkage.

Speaking of hormones, a study done at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan showed that women in their third trimester of pregnancy experience forgetfulness approximately fifteen percent more than the average person. They suggest that the high level of oxytocin during the third trimester produces an amnestic effect which may contribute to memory weakening. On top of that, estrogen levels peak in the third trimester and along with that peaking there are higher levels of anxiety and depression. It was interesting that most of the issues of depression related to physical things, like weight gain, altered appearance and disinterest in sex.

Pregnancy Forgetfulness: Keys?  What Keys?

No matter what the cause, some things will hold true for pregnant women regardless - and one of those things is memory loss. Now, where did I put those keys?

 

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