Written by Brittni Bresee on
March 2, 2022
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Brittni Bresee on:

Pregnancy brain fog is a real thing. This pregnancy symptom can cause women to forget what they are doing, where they are, and even who someone is.

It may feel like you’re in the Twilight Zone and your brain just doesn’t seem to be working right anymore. It’s frustrating and stressful, but fear not!

We have all the answers about pregnancy brain fog that you need to know, so this pregnancy symptom doesn’t get in the way of your pregnancy success!

Fact or Fiction?

There is a lot of debate surrounding pregnancy brain fog. Some people believe that it is a physical pregnancy condition and symptom while others think that it’s all in a woman’s head, or that the woman is simply “emotional”.

The truth is, pregnancy brain fog is definitely a real thing! It may not affect every woman who is pregnant, but for those who do experience it to some degree or another, it is very real.

All of the many changes a women’s body and brain go through from the moment of conception to even the postpartum stages have a huge impact on the brain.

Let’s go over more details explaining how pregnancy brain fog is a real physical condition!

What is pregnancy brain fog?

Pregnancy brain fog can be described as a cognitive impairment that many women experience during pregnancy. It can cause forgetfulness, lack of focus, and impaired judgment.

It’s basically like your regular old brain fog but intensified because you’re pregnant and your body is experiencing so many intense changes! Some women also report feeling confused and dazed most of the time during their pregnancy.

The severity of symptoms can vary from woman to woman and even from pregnancy to pregnancy. There are many reasons why this happens to many women.

Knowing more about why and what you can do about it will help you and/or a loved one manage their pregnancy brain fog.

What causes pregnancy brain fog?

There is not one specific or definitive answer to this question because there are numerous factors that come into play. However, pregnancy brain fog can be attributed to a variety of things.

Sleep Deprivation

When you’re pregnant your brain and body require a lot more sleep than it typically does. It’s very busy keeping up with the demands of your body and the hard work of growing a baby.

With so many changes happening daily, sleep deprivation often occurs and has a great impact on our brain. There are so many things that impact our delicate sleep cycle.

  • hormonal changes
  • stress/anxiety
  • pains and discomforts
  • not getting enough good vitamins and nutrients during the day
  • not being physically active

Tips for getting better sleep:

Don’t consume caffeine later in the day.

If you’re sensitive, it’s best to steer clear after 12 pm (if you can, it’s best to opt out of caffeine altogether).

Have a bedtime routine that helps you relax.

If you’re too tired for a long bath you can even try 5 minutes of using your favorite bath and beauty products to wash the day away, taking a moment to connect with yourself and unwind makes a huge difference before laying down to go to sleep.

Evaluate your sleeping environment.

Make sure your room is dark, cool, and quiet. If you’re a light sleeper or live in a noisy area consider using earplugs or a noise machine to drown out any disruptive sounds.

Limit electronics use before bedtime.

The blue light emitted from screens is overstimulation to the brain and suppresses the production of melatonin (the hormone that your brain uses to sleep).

It is best to avoid all electronics at least one hour before bed to ensure your brain is relaxed and producing the vital sleep hormones needed for a good night’s sleep.

Eat well.

Our bodies require more nutrients than normal when we’re pregnant, but sometimes pregnancy brain fog can make it hard to remember that you need to eat something healthy and nutritious.

You may find yourself reaching for sugary or salty treats around bedtime because you didn’t get enough vitamins and minerals during the day.

Keep organic proteins and fresh fruits and vegetables easily accessible during the day to prevent late-night unhealthy snacking.

Hydration!

Drinking plenty of water is a big deal when pregnant! Make sure to drink plenty of filtered water so you stay hydrated. Doing this earlier in the day will help prepare your body for sleep and limit the number of times you have to wake up and use the restroom.

Hormones

It’s no joke that a pregnant woman has many changes hormonally while pregnant, but many don’t realize this greatly impacts a women’s brain.

The increase of a hormone called progesterone during pregnancy can also play a role in causing cognitive impairment.

Progesterone is crucial to pregnancy as it maintains the body’s ability to stay pregnant however a rise in this hormone can have an impact on some women’s brains and cognitive abilities.

Progesterone is also known to have a sedative effect, which can make it difficult for pregnant women to stay alert and focused. Hormone fluctuations are a big culprit for pregnancy brain fog!

Stress

Pregnancy is already an incredibly stressful time. Many women feel stress from trying to prepare for a baby while managing their pre-existing life tasks and jobs.

You may be feeling a range of emotions from excitement to anxiety, and all of these feelings can take a toll on your brain. When you’re stressed, your body releases a stress hormone called cortisol.

Cortisol has been linked to impaired cognitive function. When your body is busy producing cortisol it has less energy to devote to other important tasks, like keeping your brain functioning at its best.

Pain and Discomforts

During pregnancy, a woman’s body is constantly going through changes. From the early weeks of pregnancy until delivery, women experience various aches and pains.

These can range from mild to severe cramps, back pain, and headaches. Pain impacts the brain in a few ways.

First, it can take up cognitive resources that would usually be used for other tasks.

Second, pain can lead to stress and anxiety, which as we now know has a negative impact on the brain. Pain = stress on the body and brain.

Not Enough Vitamins and Nutrients

It’s important to make sure you’re getting enough vitamins and nutrients while pregnant. Taking a good quality prenatal is crucial but the food you eat is just as important to feed you, your brain, and your baby.

A lack of certain vitamins and nutrients can lead to pregnancy brain fog. Some important nutrients for cognitive function are omega-fatty acids, vitamin B12, iron, and folate.

Foods high in these nutrients are leafy greens, salmon, eggs, nuts, and beans.

Physical Activity

To some women, it’s easier said than done, especially if you’re on bed rest but It’s important to get regular physical activity during pregnancy.

Not only does even mild exercising help relieve bloating, promote good circulation and strong muscles but it impacts your brain too.

Exercise releases happy hormones called endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. Endorphins also help improve cognitive function.

When you’re pregnant, it’s especially important to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard. Even taking a walk outside is greatly beneficial.

How does the brain change during pregnancy?

The brain undergoes a lot of changes during pregnancy that impact brain fog and mental clarity. One of the big changes that happen in pregnancy is an increase in gray matter.

Gray matter is the part of the brain responsible for processing information, muscle control, and sensory perception. It’s basically the “working” part of your brain where all the action happens.

Research has found that during pregnancy there’s a significant increase in gray matter. This increase in the gray matter could cause many brain fog symptoms for many pregnant women.

Let’s go over a few common factors on how the brain changes and how it can affect your life.

Impacts on Memory

One of the most commonly reported symptoms of pregnancy brain fog is forgetfulness. This may be due to the fact that the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory, shrinks during pregnancy.

Another impact on memory during pregnancy is that pregnant women are more easily distracted. This may be due to the fact that there is a lot of new stimuli in a pregnant woman’s environment.

Additionally, new mothers are often so busy taking care of their newborns that they don’t have time to focus on memories. This can lead to memory loss or difficulty recalling past events.

Alterations in Mood

Pregnancy brain fog can also lead to mood changes such as irritability, anxiety, and depression. These mood changes can be due to the hormonal fluctuations that occur during pregnancy.

Additionally, pregnancy brain fog can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and stress from the added responsibilities of pregnancy.

Pregnancy brain fog can also lead to feelings of inadequacy, or guilt if a woman is unable to complete all her usual tasks. All of these emotions can have a negative impact on cognitive function.

Changes in Gray Matter

The most notable change in the pregnant brain is an increase in grey matter. This change is due to the growth of new neurons and synapses.

The increase in the gray matter can lead to pregnancy brain fog as well as changes in mood, cognitive function, and sleep.

What to do about pregnancy brain fog?

There is no one cure for pregnancy brain fog. However, there are a few things that you can do to help alleviate the symptoms.

Sleep

The most important thing is to get sufficient sleep. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.

Keeping to some sort of a routine or schedule helps you sleep better because your brain learns what to expect and when to expect it. This encourages melatonin production.

You may also want to consider taking naps during the day if you are feeling especially fatigued. Sleeping when you can is better than no sleep at all.

Eat Well

Another important thing to keep in mind is to eat a healthy diet. Make sure you are getting plenty of organic lean protein from fish and chicken, fresh fruits, and green vegetables. Avoid processed foods and sugary drinks.

Proper nutrition is essential for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy brain. Keeping protein snacks on hand and convenient makes eating healthy so much easier!

Hydrate

Staying hydrated is key when it comes to avoiding pregnancy brain fog. Make sure to drink plenty of water and avoid caffeinated drinks as caffeine can cause dehydration.

If you’re not a fan of drinking water keep in mind that you can also get your hydration from foods. Certain foods have really high water content.

You can add watermelon, oranges, cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, and/or apples to your daily diet to help keep you hydrated too. If you have a hard time drinking water here are some tips!

  • Make sure you have clean filtered water
  • Distilled water is great for the sensitive stomach
  • Make fruit-infused water for flavor and added vitamins
  • Pregnancy-safe herbal teas are delicious, have many benefits, and are fun to try!

Healthy Fat

We are so used to hearing how fat is bad for you but fats are NOT created equal. It is absolutely crucial that the brain gets an abundance of healthy fat while pregnant. They keep the brain strong and nourished.

Healthy fats are beneficial in so many ways. Health fasts make an especially huge difference in the severity of brain fog symptoms.

Eating small doses of protein throughout the day has been shown to keep your brain and body energized while stabilizing your mood. Here are some foods high in good fats: 

  • Salmon
  • Chia Seeds
  • Ghee
  • Avocados & Avocado Oil
  • Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil
  • Flax Seed Oil
  • Extra Virgin Organic Coconut Oil
  • Walnuts
  • Goat Yogurt
  • Sheep Yogurt
  • Eggs

Incorporate these healthy fat foods into your meals and daily snack routine along with the suggestions from the rest of the article and let us know how it goes! 

And if you want to learn more about brain fog and how to clear it effectively, here are some helpful articles, and feel free to join this online community of brain health advocates.

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