If you’ve ever been pregnant, you’ve no doubt experienced the infamous “pregnancy brain.” Yes, not only is your body going through a seemingly random assortment of changes, but your mental function experiences the miracle of life, too. This unwelcome phenomenon results in mindless moments and memory lapses you might not have had a problem with before.
For example: Putting milk away in the pantry, walking into a room multiple times just to forget what you went in there for, looking for your cell phone while you’re talking on it, mysteriously and frequently losing important items, leaving the sink running, letting the dog out and forgetting to let him back in, etc. (By the way, I’m guilty of all of these!)
Basically, your brain is fried, and you do dumb things. Things that make you wonder where your brain went. It’s also been called “momnesia” and “pregnancy fog.” My family calls it “P-brain.”
Side note: During my second pregnancy, my then 3-year-old proudly proclaimed to a store clerk, “My mommy is a P-brain!” Thanks, kid. Couldn’t argue with him, though. The good news is there’s nothing wrong with you. It’s just biology. Research shows that parts of the brain actually shrink during pregnancy. Not that we need a study to prove our situation, but it’s nice to know we’re not just going crazy, right?
The Scientific Details
A study published in Nature Neuroscience concluded that pregnancy causes changes in brain structure and size that stick around after delivery.
In the study, women underwent MRI brain imaging before becoming pregnant and again after completion of their first pregnancy. The postpartum images showed clear changes in the brain, specifically a reduction in gray matter volume. The hippocampus, which is associated with memory, also got smaller.
Interestingly, the women’s partners were also scanned and did not show changes. They also studied the brains of men and women who had never had children and found no changes.
Losing Your Mind?
So your mom-mind is literally less than it used to be. Researchers noted that the gray matter changes persisted at the end of the two-year study, well after the pregnancy period. I highly doubt things go back to normal after that. You just change the name of it to “mommy brain” and on with life you go, forever accepting your morphed mental state.
But there is a silver lining. The affected areas of the brain are associated with feelings, empathy and processing the perspectives of others. Scientists believe that these changes enhance maternal response and may serve to streamline mothering responsibilities and bonding.
“Loss of volume does not necessarily translate to loss of function,” as Elseline Hoekzema,co-lead author of the Nature Neuroscience study, told CNN. “Sometimes less is more.”
So, if you feel like your brain has turned into scrambled eggs, you’re not alone. At least now we know who to blame.
LJ Kunkel is a freelance health/wellness writer, mom of three and fitness trainer.