A new mom to an adorable baby boy, Manisha Singh remembers being extremely forgetful, six months after her delivery. “I couldn’t remember words, I kept mixing up names. I remember I would pick up the phone and then wonder what I wanted to check!” she says, adding, “I am a teacher and my memory had always been so strong. But yes, I could see that something had changed.” Well, that is mom brain for you! Caring for that bundle of joy brings a new mom immense happiness, but with that, it also brings with it exhaustion, both mental and physical. This often impacts physical and cognitive abilities, and that is referred to as mom brain.
What is Mom Brain?
According to Dr Imran Noorani, consultant psychologist at Child Development Center Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, “Mom brain is often attributed to the combination of physical and emotional changes that come with pregnancy, childbirth, and the demands of caring for a new baby.”
Is mom brain real?
A study published in the JAMA Neurol explains that while there might be a small decrease in some cognitive functions of a new mom and pregnant women, it might not be very significant.
The extent and duration of these changes can vary widely among individuals.
Dr Noorani says, “ ‘Mom brain’ is a term that is used but it should be not considered as a formal medical diagnosis. It reflects the subjective experiences that some mothers report during the early stages of motherhood.”
Common symptoms of ‘mom brain’
- Forgetfulness: Difficulty remembering things, such as appointments, tasks, or where things are placed.
- Fogginess: Some mothers report feeling like their thinking is a bit cloudy or less sharp.
- Difficulty with multitasking: Managing multiple tasks at once may become more challenging.
- Loss of focus or concentration: Trouble staying focused on a task for an extended period.
- Slower Information Processing: Processing information or making decisions might take a bit longer.
These symptoms can arise due to several factors, explain Dr Noorani. Pregnancy and postpartum periods involve significant hormonal fluctuations, which can impact cognitive function. Newborns often have irregular sleep 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.
Can you overcome Mom Brain?
Overcoming ‘mom brain’ or managing its effects involves implementing strategies to support cognitive function, reduce stress, and prioritise self-care, says Dr Noorani.
- Get adequate sleep: It is very important to get enough rest, whenever you can. Fitting in a short afternoon nap will also prove useful.
- Practice mindfulness and stress reduction: Deep breathing, meditation, or yoga techniques go a long way in calming the mind and improving focus.
- Stay organised: Use tools like calendars, to-do lists, and reminders on your phone to help 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.
- Stay active: Physical activity does wonders to boost your mood, energy levels, and cognitive function.
- Healthy nutrition: 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 maintaining mental well-being.
- Engage 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 go forward.
- Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself. Becoming a new mom is a significant life change, and it’s normal to experience moments of forgetfulness or mental fog.
Can mom brain lead to any other issues?
Yes, this can potentially lead to other issues such as low self-esteem and anxiety. “Feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt are very natural in this phase you struggle to remember and focus. “Mothers may start 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 sky high at this time and this can lead to tension, fatigue, or headaches. “It may also lead to isolation. If a mother is struggling with cognitive changes, she may be hesitant to engage in social activities or seek support. This can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness,” the expert adds.