Pregnancy is a natural process that many women experience in life, often several times. The female body is designed to deal with the host of changes that occur during pregnancy and it is usually not a strain on the body in terms of long term health and wellbeing. However, these changes can sometimes disrupt certain normal functions in the body, and memory may at times be affected. Poor memory or forgetfulness is one of the common ‘pregnancy brain’ symptoms that some mothers report and it has also earned the title of ‘momnesia’. It does not happen to all pregnant women and is a short term issue for onl some pregnant women.
Until recently the entire concept of ‘pregnancy brain’ was questioned by the medical fraternity. It was believed to be a problem for a handful of women but it is slowly being recognized as a real problem for a small but significant number of pregnant women. What is known is that pregnancy does not cause any structural problems to the brain and the existence of pregnancy brain may possibly be attributed to physiological consequences of pregnancy.
It is believed that one of the contributing factors to pregnancy brain is the high level of hormones that occur during this time. Estrogen and progesterone levels rise substantially and may somehow disrupt memory during pregnancy. Once these hormone levels return to a normal range after childbirth, the memory problem may subside if other contributing factors also resolve. However, the first few months and even years of motherhood can be taxing in other ways which may play a role in the continuation of pregnancy brain beyond the hormonal effect.
Gestational diabetes may lead to abnormally high blood glucose levels which could affect normal tissue function in various ways. Similarly low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) that may arise in mothers with diabetes, worsen in women who otherwise suffered with hypoglycemia or occur in mothers who are not eating enough for the increased nutritional demands of pregnancy could also account for the memory problems. Here the issue is blood glucose – either it is too high or too low.
Iron-deficiency anemia is a common occurrence in pregnancy. It tends to be worse among pregnant women who do not take iron supplements during pregnancy where there is increased iron utilization for the baby. The lower oxygen carrying capacity of blood as a result of anemia means that the brain tissue may be receiving less oxygen. A number of symptoms may arise with anemia and problems in memory and concentration are well known to occur in more severe cases. Changes in blood pressure seen in anemia could also be responsible.
The physical and psychological stress of pregnancy is well know, especially with the added stresses of modern life. Memory problems can arise in any person experiencing stress and it is not unique to stressed expectant mothers. Pain, disturbed sleep and fatigue are some of the physical strains of pregnancy and this can also contribute to poor memory. In fact the combination of physical and psychological stress can also affect other aspects of an expectant mother’s health and a poor memory may just be one of many stress-related symptoms.