Ever heard of pregnancy brain or “momnesia”? It is a common occurrence when pregnant women or new mums experience bouts of forgetfulness. Research shows that while pregnant and during early motherhood, the unusually high hormone levels and new priorities are the primary reasons for mums to experience this.
Dr. Jane Martin, the director of the Neuropsychological Testing and Evaluation Center at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center, says this is normal, and the effect is just the same when you are stressed, busy, multitasking, or haven’t had enough sleep, impairing your memory and reducing your cognitive sharpness.
Dr. Louann Brizendine, director of the Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic at the University of California, San Francisco, agrees that because there is 15 to 40 times more estrogen and progesterone when pregnant, the neurons in the brain are affected. After delivery, amounts of another hormone called oxytocin responsible for uterus contractions and milk production also surge, affecting brain circuits.
What happens here, based on a British study, is because your brain is focused on baby stuff, spatial memory is affected. This includes difficulty remembering where your things are.
Evolution may have something to do with it too, says Dr. Donnica Moore, a women’s health expert. According to her, the memory impairment helps women forget other stuff to focus on caring for their child.
Nutrition for Mum Brain
So, what can you do in order to counteract mum brain’s effects and stay sharp-minded for your baby and your family?
Here’s what you should do to achieve a healthy and alert brain, according to experts:
1. Choose quality over quantity.
According to Dr. Daniel Amen, founder of Amen Clinics and BrainMD, double board certified psychiatrist and nine-time New York Times bestselling author, go for high-quality calories but without getting too low on quantity when choosing your food especially if you have a low metabolism.
2. Be mindful of what you drink.
Dr. Amen adds that since your brain is 80% to 85% water, dehydration can affect your judgement and thinking. So, avoid caffeine, alcohol, and excess salt that cause dehydration and make it a point to drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
3. Eat clean protein.
Protein aids in balancing blood sugar levels and supplies building blocks for brain health. Consume about 30 grams of protein per meal to avoid losing muscle which causes faster ageing and negatively affects the brain. Choose protein sources that are clean, meaning, those that are antibiotic-free, hormone-free, grass-fed, free-range, and organic.
The same goes for other food stuff. Local, fresh, organic, whole and unprocessed food is the way to go according to Dr. Mark Hyman, director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, founder of The UltraWellness Center, and ten-time New York Times bestselling author.
4. Eat the right carbohydrates.
According to Dr. Amen, you should choose low glycemic, high fibre carbohydrates that do not cause your blood sugar to spike and actually help prevent bowel prolapse. These include whole grains and green leafy vegetables.
These carbohydrates are also packed with other essential nutrients and are digested more slowly, providing you with energy and nourishment for a longer period of time.
5. Go for healthy fats.
Both Dr. Amen and Dr. Hyman agree that fats are essential because 60% of the brain’s weight (without the water) is made of DHA, a type of omega-3 fat. So, incorporating good saturated fats in your diet is important for brain health and mental clarity.
Examples of good saturated fat sources are MCT oil, coconut oil, walnuts, avocado, tuna, and salmon. Avoid bad, unsaturated trans fats like those from ice cream, pizza, and cheeseburgers.
Follow these tips and advice in order to provide complete nutrition for the mum brain, but do not forget about a balanced diet composed of fruits and vegetables. Through this and getting enough sleep and regular exercise, you’ll surely be there for your family: both physically and mentally!