Battling Pregnancy Brain Drain


Being pregnant can bring big challenges. You may be dealing with emotional ups and downs, odd cravings, and body changes. Throw in a loss of memory and your whole world may seem discombobulated.

Spot Memory Lapses

Aside from expected pregnancy-related symptoms, experiencing even mild memory lapses can be frustrating. While there is no medical terminology for memory loss during pregnancy, some women lightheartedly refer to this symptom as placenta brain, preggo brain, or baby brain as they become forgetful, awkward, and inconsistent with their thoughts. Keys are misplaced, phone numbers are forgotten, and appointments are missed.

Some speculate that memory loss during pregnancy is a myth, but there seems to be some validity to the phenomenon. Does the shift of hormones cause a woman to become forgetful, or is it that a newly pregnant woman is so engrossed with the thoughts of a baby that everything else gets pushed aside?

Darryn W. Dunbar, CNM and assistant director of midwifery at Access Community Health Network in Chicago, Illinois, pinpoints increased levels of progesterone as the culprit for much of a pregnant woman’s memory loss. “Progesterone is the hormone that often causes significant fatigue, headaches, and mood swings. That cloudy feeling some women feel, especially in the first trimester, can contribute to the forgetfulness some women seem to experience,” says Dunbar, who notes that memory loss appears more prevalent in the first and last trimesters.

Sharpen Your Mind

Want to fight brain drain? Dunbar suggests the following to keep memory skills sharp during pregnancy:

  • Get Adequate Rest: “When women are able to augment the amount of sleep they normally get, it is my experience that this aids with mental acuity and memory,” says Dunbar.
  • Eat Right: Dunbar says having a balanced diet assures a vitamin or mineral deficiency is not causing forgetfulness or decreased memory capacity. He recommends taking prenatal vitamins so women can get the critical vitamins and minerals necessary during pregnancy, including folic acid.
  • Exercise and Drink Fluids: Dunbar advises his patients to drink lots of fluids and exercise while pregnant. If a woman becomes dehydrated she can become fatigued and electrolytes may be altered, lending to “decreased memory, sub-optimal mental acuity and even mild confusion,” says Dunbar. Exercise offers a sense of well-being, increases circulation, and decreases fatigue.