The Truth Behind Mom Brain

There’s no denying that being pregnant and becoming a mother changes you. But one change that I didn’t anticipate or prepare for is mom brain.

After the birth of my first son, I thought I had lost my mind. Prior to having my son, I was on top of my game. I never forgot a name or an appointment. I had a near-photographic memory. But after having a child, I would walk into a room and immediately forget what I was looking for. When speaking with my husband, I would have trouble stringing together a sentence. And don’t even ask me where I put my house keys! I walked out of the house many times without them in hand.

Mom brain, momnesia, baby brain, pregnancy brain — whatever you call it, the foggy post-pregnancy feeling is real and something many women experience.

It’s Not All in Your Head

While it may feel like you’re imagining things, mom brain isn’t all in your head. Your brain does change when you’re pregnant and after you have a baby. And for a good reason.

Scientists are just beginning to study this evolution and believe that these changes help to prepare women for motherhood and for forging a strong bond with their child. These changes can last up to two years after giving birth.

Plus, the postpartum period also brings a wave of other challenges that may explain why you feel like you’re operating in a haze. Your hormones are in flux, you’re adjusting to life with a new member of the family, and you’re not getting much rest. Mom brain is often the result of extreme fatigue, says Nadine Lyseight, MD, an OB-GYN at Dignity Health Medical Group — Inland Empire, a service of Dignity Health Medical Foundation, and she’s not surprised that many of her patients complain of it.

Dr. Lyseight says that mom brain may also be a symptom that you have a lot on your plate and are mentally stretched thin. “You’re taking care of things at home and taking care of things at work,” she says. “It’s a lot to remember.”

The extra foggy feeling may not immediately disappear after you emerge from the newborn period. Even as our kids sleep patterns settle into a more predictable routine, a mother’s sleep pattern can remain erratic, says Dr. Lyseight. Researchers found that even 18 weeks postpartum, 50 percent of women still experienced excessive sleepiness during the day.

Make Time for Yourself

While there may not be a cure for baby brain, there are some simple steps you can take to help ease some of the mental fog. “Find time every day for yourself,” says Dr. Lyseight. She especially advocates for meeting with a local mom’s group. “It can help reassure you that there are a lot of us out there going through the same thing,” she says. “It’s a safe space to speak with someone who truly understands what it’s like.”

She also recommends eating a healthy diet to avoid dips in your energy and creating a calm bedtime routine for yourself. “Go to bed at the same time. Turn off the TV. Take a warm shower,” says Dr. Lyseight. “It can help you relax so you can get better sleep.”

And be patient with yourself. “Every mom wants to be perfect, and this is the one thing they want to do perfectly. But you’re not going to be perfect,” says Dr. Lyseight. “Take it one day at a time.”

If you find that you’re becoming more and more forgetful or confused, or if you have any concerns, talk to your doctor to make a plan so you feel more like yourself soon.