What causes brain fog in pregnancy and is it even real? There can be a decline in cognitive skills during pregnancy and hormone changes, stress, and iron deficiency may be contributing factors.
Domino Kirke-Badgley and Lindsey Bliss are co-founders of Carriage House Birth, an organization that aims to deepen the practices of Doulas and provide birth and postpartum services for families at every stage of their reproductive journey.
Domino, a full spectrum doula and Lindsey, a birth doula and childbirth educator, break down everything you should know about the brain fog and other symptoms that can effect so many pregnant people and keep them from fully enjoying the unique experiences of pregnancy, child birth and the newborn phase with all the clarity and vibrancy possible.
Lindsey Bliss; Domino Kirke-Badgkey; Oge Emetarom
What the Heck Is Pregnancy Brain?
(Domino) Pregnancy Brain is real and scientifically proven. Your gray matter changes in the areas of social cognition, which affects how we remember and perceive in our social circles. Pregnancy Brain is a term that’s commonly used, but it’s not a diagnosis. It refers to common cognitive changes during pregnancy and their postpartum period, causing a decline in cognitive skills.
What Causes Brain Fog In Pregnancy?
(Lindsey) It’s pretty normal to have a foggy memory when you are short on sleep or experiencing stress, which many pregnant people do. Also, hormone surges during pregnancy effect the neurons in the brain.
Typically, the pregnant folks that I work with tend to speak about it most in their third trimester of pregnancy and many of the “pregnancy brain” symptoms are also caused by low iron pregnancy anemia.
The most common symptoms of anemia during pregnancy are:
+ Pale skin, lips, and nails.
+ Feeling tired or weak.
+ Shortness of breath.
+ Rapid heartbeat.
+ Trouble concentrating.
(Domino) Our Carriage House Birth clients are often tired and lacking energy during their pregnancy. We know that severe iron deficiency anemia can cause low birth weight and premature births. Educating clients to advocate for their health and to get their iron levels checked if they are feeling any of these signs is extremely important.
Iron supplementation is necessary during pregnancy. If you’re anemic and it goes untreated, it can cause complications and possibly increase your chances for preterm labor.
When people give birth they lose a considerable amount of iron due to the blood loss related to childbirth. You then continue to lose blood for several weeks following the birth furthering your iron depletion. It is important to your postpartum healing to replenish your iron. If you’re breastfeeding your iron stores supply your baby with iron for their development and thyroid function. There have also been studies that link iron deficiency to postpartum depression!
It is important to help pregnant people to understand why iron deficiency anemia is vital to treat during pregnancy. Knowing the signs and ways to treat it with iron rich foods, herbal supplements, and supplements like Flora Ferritin+ can lead to better pregnancies and birth outcomes.
What Supports Do Pregnant Folks Have To
Minimize Pregnancy Brain?
Supplement with iron | Flora’s iron supplement, Ferritin+ can help with low energy and brain fog by using the body’s natural resources. It’s derived from organic peas and uses the body’s own systems to build and store iron levels throughout your pregnancy. Also, try cooking in cast iron to boost your iron in a subtle way over time.
Flora’s breakthrough plant-based iron supplement, Ferritin+
Prioritize Naps | For your entire pregnancy, you’re going to hear people say, “Sleep while you can!” or “Remember, when the baby arrives, you have to sleep when the baby sleeps.” This rarely happens!
Preparing for the baby’s arrival is so exciting that it can feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day. That’s even more difficult once your baby is earthside.
When they sleep, you’ll want to clean, tend to the other children, or do things for yourself, like take a shower or go for a walk. There certainly doesn’t feel like there’s actually time to sleep, but try just lying down!
Remember to lie flat in your first trimester or once you’re postpartum. No pillow is key here to lie as flat as possible, or on your side with your arm bent under your head. Set an alarm for 20 minutes and just lie there. If you nod off, great. If not, that’s okay, too! At least you closed your eyes and were horizontal for 20 whole minutes.
play with Memory Apps | Memory games and apps are a fabulous and productive habit to get into. Sure, it’s more screen time, but if you’re working that brain muscle it can really improve your short term memory, which is the first thing to go when you’re struggling with brain fog and low iron levels.
be Mindful with screen time | Try sleeping with the phone in another room. Invest in an alarm clock. Try some mindfulness apps specifically designed for screen time like Moment or any screen time tracker. Practice putting the phone down one day a week, or at least taking the phone away after dinner so you can slowly downshift before falling asleep.
enjoy Meditation | Below, one of our advisory board members, mindfulness meditation and breathwork facilitator, Oge Emetarom will walk you through this. Meditation is an incredible way to give your mind a break. It can provide deep rest in a flash. You don’t have to sit in meditation for 20, 30, or 60 minutes. You can sit for 2 minutes. Really! You can close your eyes, focus on a mantra, or simply observe your thoughts or your breathing and notice, within a matter of minutes, a sense of calm and grounding you didn’t feel before. Try a meditation app like Expectful or Headspace and lock it into your schedule, the same way you schedule a work out.
Using Meditation For Pregnancy Brain
(Oge) Meditation is like a natural remedy for brain fog. Meditation, like mindfulness, involves focusing on the breath and remaining in the present moment. You’re able to sit and connect with your internal environment, connecting to yourself without distraction.
Meditation has a major impact on the entire nervous system, helping to balance the endocrine system. Specifically in my work with expecting families I’ve seen how, with practice, meditation can be effective at reducing stress and improving the many symptoms of brain fog.
One of the main techniques I use to support my clients is having them pick a point of focus. It can be a word or affirmation that you repeat out loud or in your mind while closing your eyes and sitting comfortably still. Another point of focus can be a picture, candle, or even their own bellies to keep their eyes on while breathing evenly.
In my opinion, meditation is one of the best solutions (along with the use of iron-rich supplements) for brain fog during pregnancy. Staying present and calming the mind, can help to slow down the nervous system and constant flow of thoughts that are attributed to “pregnancy brain.”
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This story is brought to you in partnership with Flora. From time to time, TCM editors choose to partner with brands we believe in to bring our readers special offers. The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs.