Mom brain: what it is and how to overcome it

New mother of an adorable little boy, Manisha Singh remembers being extremely forgetful, six months after giving birth. “I couldn’t remember the words, I kept mixing up the names. I remember picking up the phone and then wondering what I wanted to check! she said, adding, “I’m a teacher and my memory has always been so strong. But yes, I could see that something had changed. Well, that’s mommy brain for you! Caring for this little bundle of joy brings a new mother immense happiness, but with that, it also brings exhaustion, both mental and physical. This often impacts physical and cognitive abilities, this is called mommy brain.

What is Mama Brain?

According to Dr Imran Noorani, consultant psychologist at the Child Development Center Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi, “Mom brain is often attributed to the combination of physical and emotional changes that accompany pregnancy, childbirth and the demands of care of a new baby. .”

Is mommy brain real?

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

The extent and duration of these changes can vary considerably among individuals.
Dr Noorani says: “‘Mom brain’ is a term used but should not be considered a formal medical diagnosis. This reflects the subjective experiences some mothers report during the early stages of motherhood.

Common Symptoms of “Mommy Brain”

  • Forgotten: Difficulty remembering things, such as appointments, tasks, or where things are placed.
  • Fog: Some mothers report feeling like their thinking is a little cloudy or less precise.
  • Difficulty with multitasking: Managing multiple tasks at once can become more difficult.
  • Loss of focus or concentration: Difficulty staying focused on a task for an extended period of time.
  • Slower information processing: Processing information or making decisions may take a little longer.

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

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

Can you defeat Mom Brain?

Overcoming “mother brain” or managing its effects requires implementing strategies to support cognitive function, 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 nap in the afternoon will also prove helpful.
  • Practice mindfulness and stress reduction: Deep breathing, meditation or yoga techniques go a long way in calming the mind and improving concentration.
  • Stay Organized: Use tools like calendars, to-do lists, and reminders on your phone to help you keep track of appointments, tasks, and important information.
  • Break tasks into manageable chunks: Instead of trying to do everything at once, break tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. Also make sure to give yourself short breaks during the day to recharge your batteries.
  • Stay active: Physical activity does wonders for improving your mood, energy levels and cognitive functions.
  • Healthy eating: A balanced diet including 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.
  • Participate in cognitive activities: Reading, puzzles, or brain training 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 big life change, and it’s normal to experience moments of forgetfulness or mental fog.

Can mom brain cause other problems?

Yes, it can potentially lead to other problems such as low self-esteem and anxiety. “Feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt are very natural in this phase as you struggle to remember and concentrate. “Mothers may begin to question 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 extremely high at the moment and this can lead to tension, fatigue or headaches. “It can also lead to isolation. If a mother is struggling with cognitive changes, she may be hesitant to engage in social activities or seek help. This can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness,” adds the expert.

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