A new mom to an adorable baby boy, Manisha Singh remembers being extremely forgetful, six months after her delivery. “I couldn’t remember words, I kept mixing up names. I remember I would pick up the phone and then wonder what I wanted to check!” she says, adding, “I am a teacher and my memory had always been so strong. But yes, I could see that something had changed.” Well, that is mom brain for you! Caring for that bundle of joy brings a new mom immense happiness, but with that, it also brings with it exhaustion, both mental and physical. This often impacts physical and cognitive abilities, and that is referred to as mom brain.
According to Dr Imran Noorani, consultant psychologist at Child Development Center Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, “Mom brain is often attributed to the combination of physical and emotional changes that come with pregnancy, childbirth, and the demands of caring for a new baby.”
A study published in the JAMA Neurol explains that while there might be a small decrease in some cognitive functions of a new mom and pregnant women, it might not be very significant.
The extent and duration of these changes can vary widely among individuals.
Dr Noorani says, “ ‘Mom brain’ is a term that is used but it should be not considered as a formal medical diagnosis. It reflects the subjective experiences that some mothers report during the early stages of motherhood.”
These symptoms can arise due to several factors, explain Dr Noorani. Pregnancy and postpartum periods involve significant hormonal fluctuations, which can impact cognitive function. Newborns often have irregular sleep patterns, leading to sleep deprivation for parents. “The demands and responsibilities of caring for a new baby can be emotionally and mentally taxing, which can affect cognitive function.
Overcoming ‘mom brain’ or managing its effects involves implementing strategies to support cognitive function, reduce stress, and prioritise self-care, says Dr Noorani.
Yes, this can potentially lead to other issues such as low self-esteem and anxiety. “Feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt are very natural in this phase you struggle to remember and focus. “Mothers may start to question their abilities or feel frustrated with themselves. The added stress of caring for a newborn, combined with cognitive changes, can contribute to increased anxiety,” says Dr Noorani.
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Stress levels are sky high at this time and this can lead to tension, fatigue, or headaches. “It may also lead to isolation. If a mother is struggling with cognitive changes, she may be hesitant to engage in social activities or seek support. This can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness,” the expert adds.