Blog

4 Causes of Baby Brain And What To Do About Them

in Brain Health, Health, Post-Partum Recovery

Every mom will tell you that pregnancy and motherhood change you on all levels. Some of the more difficult changes that pregnancy causes are a frustrating mental impairment and cognitive slowing. These changes are also known as baby brain, mom brain, momnesia, or preg head. 

Previously simple tasks may now take you hours to complete. You often have to read and reread the same paragraph over and over again. And your keys seem to have grown legs and never stay in the place where you remember putting them.

Baby brain has multiple causes. Some of them (e.g. nutrient deficiencies) can be addressed and others (e.g. brain remodeling) mostly just need to be accepted. Read on to learn more about the causes of baby brain and how to improve it. 

Baby Brain Cause #1: Building A Second Brain

Prenatal/Postnatal Daily Bundle

During pregnancy, you are in fact building a second brain (your baby’s). This takes an immense amount of nutrients. If you don’t ingest enough nutrients for two, your brain and your baby’s brain both suffer.

Essential nutrients for building brains include EPA, DHA, choline, vitamin D, folate, and more. To fortify both mom and baby’s brains during pregnancy and the postnatal period, I always recommend supplementing with Prenatal & Postnatal Daily Nutrients AND Prenatal & Postnatal Omega-3.

Baby Brain Cause #2: Brain Remodeling To Make You A Better Mom

Being a mom requires a unique type of brain: a brain that is more attuned to your baby than to the rest of the world. Our bodies naturally change our brain’s physical structure during pregnancy! Research shows that the more that mom’s brain changes, the more she is able to be sensitive to the needs of her baby. Brain remodeling also helps new parents become quick learners.  

Unfortunately, these brain changes can slow down mental processing speeds and make other non-parenting tasks more difficult- especially those requiring time awareness, working memory, and linear thinking. There’s also evidence that these brain changes may make new mothers more susceptible to mental health and mood disorders.

In my opinion, the first step to deal with brain-remodeling-related cognitive changes is to foster self-compassion and self-acceptance. Getting help early for any mental health concerns that come up is also important as is communicating your struggles to supportive family, friends, and colleagues who may be wondering why things are different. Herbs that enhance cognition and brain health, like gingko, gotu kola, and lion’s mane mushroom may help with mental performance.

Baby Brain Cause #3: Sleep Deprivation & Stress Induced Cognitive Dysfunction

Sleepless nights, new tasks, societal pressures, potential relationship stress, and extra new-baby expenses, coupled with less brain power overall can lead to the perfect storm of exhaustion and overwhelm for new moms. Studies have shown that high levels of stress and fatigue can lead to executive dysfunction symptoms that mimic those of ADHD. If you already deal with ADHD, your symptoms may be exacerbated beyond the point where you’re able to cope with them. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider for help.

Stress management, social support, and increased quality sleep are the ideal solutions for fatigue and stress induced executive dysfunction, but sadly that is often out of reach for even the most well-supported and well-resourced moms. 

Good nutrition, time in nature, joy, fun, and adequate hydration are all important for executive function. Herbs that support adrenal function like ashwagandha, cordyceps, and rhodiola may help with the physical and mental effects of stress.

Baby Brain #4: Constant Interruption & Overwhelming Multitasking 

It is well known that multitasking impairs brain performance. Most people are able to work with some degree of interruption and multitasking; however, when parenting small children, interruption and multitasking can reach levels that make it feel impossible to complete a task from start to finish

When paired with the above causes of baby brain, the natural interruptions caused by the needs of babies and small children can contribute to the feeling that your brain just isn’t performing as well as it used to. 

Finding and protecting uninterrupted stretches of time when you can do mental work is essential, especially if you’re a mom working from home. Fueling your brain with optimal nutrition and hydration can help, too. Aim for complex carbohydrates, colorful fruits and veggies, plenty of water and hydrating herbal teas, plus supplements that improve brain function.

Summary

Pregnancy and motherhood change our brains to make us better learners and more responsive parents. Unfortunately, these changes can make it difficult for our brains to perform other tasks and they may make us more susceptible to mental health problems. We can do our best to keep our brains functioning optimally by managing stress, sleep, and interruptions. We can support our brains by ensuring optimal nutrition, hydration, and supplementation.

 

References:

Hoekzema, E., Barba-Müller, E., Pozzobon, C., Picado, M., Lucco, F., García-García, D., Soliva, J. C., Tobeña, A., Desco, M., Crone, E. A., Ballesteros, A., Carmona, S., & Vilarroya, O. (2017). Pregnancy leads to long-lasting changes in human brain structure. Nature neuroscience, 20(2), 287–296. https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.4458

Hoekzema, E., Tamnes, C. K., Berns, P., Barba-Müller, E., Pozzobon, C., Picado, M., Lucco, F., Martínez-García, M., Desco, M., Ballesteros, A., Crone, E. A., Vilarroya, O., & Carmona, S. (2020). Becoming a mother entails anatomical changes in the ventral striatum of the human brain that facilitate its responsiveness to offspring cues. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 112, 104507. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2019.104507

Barba-Müller, E., Craddock, S., Carmona, S., & Hoekzema, E. (2019). Brain plasticity in pregnancy and the postpartum period: links to maternal caregiving and mental health. Archives of women’s mental health, 22(2), 289–299. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-018-0889-z

Duarte-Guterman, P., Leuner, B., & Galea, L. (2019). The long and short term effects of motherhood on the brain. Frontiers in neuroendocrinology, 53, 100740. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yfrne.2019.02.004

Kim, S., & Strathearn, L. (2016). Oxytocin and Maternal Brain Plasticity. New directions for child and adolescent development, 2016(153), 59–72. https://doi.org/10.1002/cad.20170

Kim P. (2016). Human Maternal Brain Plasticity: Adaptation to Parenting. New directions for child and adolescent development, 2016(153), 47–58. https://doi.org/10.1002/cad.20168

Hillerer, K. M., Jacobs, V. R., Fischer, T., & Aigner, L. (2014). The maternal brain: an organ with peripartal plasticity. Neural plasticity, 2014, 574159. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/574159

Harris, R., Gibbs, D., Mangin-Heimos, K., & Pineda, R. (2018). Maternal mental health during the neonatal period: Relationships to the occupation of parenting. Early human development, 120, 31–39. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2018.03.009

Lonstein J. S. (2019). The dynamic serotonin system of the maternal brain. Archives of women’s mental health, 22(2), 237–243. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-018-0887-1

Kim P. (2021). How stress can influence brain adaptations to motherhood. Frontiers in neuroendocrinology, 60, 100875. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yfrne.2020.100875

Keller, M., Vandenberg, L. N., & Charlier, T. D. (2019). The parental brain and behavior: A target for endocrine disruption. Frontiers in neuroendocrinology, 54, 100765. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yfrne.2019.100765

Duthie, L., & Reynolds, R. M. (2013). Changes in the maternal hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in pregnancy and postpartum: influences on maternal and fetal outcomes. Neuroendocrinology, 98(2), 106–115. https://doi.org/10.1159/000354702

Russell, J. A., Douglas, A. J., & Ingram, C. D. (2001). Brain preparations for maternity–adaptive changes in behavioral and neuroendocrine systems during pregnancy and lactation. An overview. Progress in brain research, 133, 1–38. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0079-6123(01)33002-9

Goel, N., Rao, H., Durmer, J. S., & Dinges, D. F. (2009). Neurocognitive consequences of sleep deprivation. Seminars in neurology, 29(4), 320–339. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0029-1237117

Diamond A. (2013). Executive functions. Annual review of psychology, 64, 135–168. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-113011-143750

 

Recommended Products

OUR PRODUCTS

Trusted by Moms Everywhere

From foundational guidance to vaccination support, our products are pharmaceutical grade, organic, and scientifically studied to enhance your child’s immune system and neurological system. 

GET FREE ACCESS!

Dr. Ashley Mayer, founder of Dr. Green Mom®, is on a mission to provide you and your family with the tools to live a healthy life TODAY. You deserve quality healthcare information that’s easy to understand and even easier to implement.

Sign up today to get VIP access to her eBooks, health tips, and
up-to-date vaccine information for FREE!

FREE Guide to
Prepare for Vaccines
7 Secrets to
Prevent Sick Kids
Premium
Newsletter

Yes, sign me up for marketing emails from Dr. Ashley. For more information on how we use your information, check out our Privacy Policy. You can change your mind anytime by unsubscribing.

ORDER YOUR VACCINE
STRATEGY GUIDE
TODAY!