Baby Brain: How Pregnancy Affects Memory

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — It turns out a lot goes out with the bath water when a woman is pregnant, including memory.

Doctors say the feeling many women get – that they are losing their minds – is not in their imagination.

“I’ve experienced ‘baby brain,’ and I have been going through it,” Mineola resident Lauren Stipp said. “Forgetfulness, absentmindedness.”

Stipp is due to give birth next month.

Lisa Marie Governale, of Huntington, just had a baby girl.

“I would forget, say, to run an errand, or ‘what did I go into the room for?’” Governale said.

“I’ve been practicing obstetrics for more than 30 years, and it’s absolutely true,” Dr. Victor Klein, of Long Island Jewish Medical Center, said. “Women who are pregnant are more forgetful.”

Dr. Klein said his pregnant patients are all discussing the latest research on memory loss, attributable to surging hormones and high levels of oxytocin which combine to produce symptoms of amnesia.

One study showed the causes: multitasking, iron deficiency, and sleep deprivation. New evidence points to temporary brain shrinkage of up to eight percent.

“Some studies have shown in the third trimester – the last three months of pregnancy – the brain is actually smaller if you do MRIs on pregnant mothers,” Dr. Klein said. “After you deliver, it gets back to normal size.”

A medical study out of Michigan shows women in the third trimester experience forgetfulness 15 percent more than the average person.

Timor Hedvat, of Manhasset, is due in two weeks.

“You’re forgetting last names, names of people,” Hedvat said.

Elizabeth Acosta said her memory didn’t fully return for three months.

“I forgot a lot, it was very difficult,” she said. “I had to write everything down, make lists, to remember to do things.”

Experts do have a few tips to help prevent memory loss during pregnancy.

“Number one, get a lot of sleep. Number two, write things down,” Dr. Klein said.

Scientists say there may be an evolutionary aspect to “pregnancy brain” – women will forget unimportant matters and focus on caring for the soon-to-be-born child.

Some studies have shown that women accumulate up to 700 hours of “sleep debt” in the first year after having a baby. That keeps the brain from being at its best for things outside of caring for the child.

More from Jennifer McLogan
  • Causes of Baby Brain…and Recipes Too! | TinySophisticate

    […] I did some google searching to see if it was a legitimate “medical issue.”  In a 2010 CBS New York story, Dr. Victor Klein, of Long Island Jewish Medical Center, discussed the latest research on memory […]

  • Where has my brain gone? « Real Anonymous Girl

    […] think that having the baby would alleviate all those problems. Guess again! I went from having “baby brain” to having “mommy brain.” I still forget all the same things but now I feel frazzled […]

  • Pregnancy Brain or Going Insane « Someone's Mamma?

    […] your pregnancy brain,” people told me. Some call it baby brain and different sources speculate that it occurs because of a lack of sleep, hormone surges, or too […]

  • Zapping a brain for math's sake, and other news – The Chart - Blogs

    […] experienced memory loss during that time that some call "baby brain." In turns out the brain may temporarily shrink up to 8 percent in pregnant women, and then restore to its original size after the child is born – check it out from CBS New […]

blog comments powered by Disqus
Bloomberg WCBS Tri-State Business Index-DP
Giving Tuesday

Listen Live