Mother brain: what is it and how can you overcome it?

Manisha Singh, new mother of an adorable baby boy, remembers being extremely forgetful six months after giving birth. “I couldn’t remember the words, I kept mixing up names. I remember picking up the phone and wondering what I wanted to check!” she says, adding, “I’m a teacher and my memory had always been so strong. But yes, I saw that something had changed.” Well, that’s mom brain for you! Caring for that bundle of joy brings a new mother immense happiness, but it also brings exhaustion, both mentally and physically. This often affects physical and cognitive skills, and is called the mother brain.

What is mother brain?

According to Dr. Imran Noorani, consultant psychologist at the Child Development Center Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi: “The maternal brain is often attributed to the combination of physical and emotional changes associated with pregnancy, childbirth and the demands of caring for brings a new baby. .”

Are mom brains real?

A study published in the JAMA Neurol explains that while there may be a small decrease in some cognitive functions of a new mother and pregnant women, it may not be very significant.

The extent and duration of these changes can vary greatly from person to person.
Dr. Noorani says, “’Motherbrain’ is a term that is used, but should not be considered a formal medical diagnosis. It reflects the subjective experiences that some mothers report during the early stages of motherhood.”

Common Symptoms of ‘Mother Brain’

  • Forgetfulness: Difficulty remembering things, such as appointments, tasks, or where things are placed.
  • Fogginess: Some mothers report feeling like their thinking is a little cloudy or less sharp.
  • Difficulties with multitasking: Managing multiple tasks at once can become more challenging.
  • Loss of focus or concentration: Trouble staying focused on a task for long periods of time.
  • Slower information processing: Processing information or making decisions may take a little longer.

These symptoms can be caused by several factors, Dr. Noorani explains. Pregnancy and postpartum periods involve significant hormonal fluctuations, which can affect cognitive function. Newborns often have irregular sleep patterns, leading to sleep deprivation for the parents. “The demands and responsibilities of caring for a new baby can be emotionally and mentally taxing, which can impact cognitive function.

Feelings of forgetfulness and confusion are common after the birth of a child. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Can You Overcome Mom Brain?

To overcome “mom brain” or manage its effects, strategies need to be implemented to support cognitive functions, reduce stress, and prioritize self-care, says Dr. Noorani.

  • Get enough sleep: It is very important to get enough rest whenever you can. Taking a short afternoon nap can also be helpful.
  • Practice mindfulness and stress reduction: Deep breathing, meditation or yoga techniques can go a long way in calming the mind and improving focus.
  • Stay organized: Use tools like calendars, to-do lists, and reminders on your phone to keep track of appointments, tasks, and important information.
  • Divide tasks into manageable chunks: Instead of trying to do everything at once, break tasks down into smaller, more manageable steps. Also make sure to take short breaks throughout the day to recharge.
  • Stay active: Physical activity does wonders to improve your mood, energy levels and cognitive function.
  • Healthy food: A balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains can support overall brain health.
  • Stay socially connected: Friends and family can provide emotional support and help maintain mental well-being.
  • Engage in cognitive activities: Reading, doing puzzles or doing brain exercises can help keep your mind sharp.
  • Ask for help: Seeking support from friends, family, or professionals when needed is the right way to move forward.
  • Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself. Becoming a new mother is a major life change, and it’s normal to experience moments of forgetfulness or mental fog.

Can Mom Brain Lead to Other Problems?

Yes, this can potentially lead to other problems, such as low self-esteem and anxiety. “Feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt are very natural at this stage when you have difficulty remembering and concentrating. “Mothers may start to doubt their abilities or feel frustrated with themselves. The added stress of caring for a newborn, combined with cognitive changes, can contribute to increased anxiety,” says Dr. Noorani.

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Stress levels are sky high at the moment and this can lead to tension, fatigue or headaches. “It can also lead to isolation. If a mother struggles with cognitive changes, she may hesitate to participate in social activities or seek support. This can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness,” the expert adds.

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