Deciding to have children is one of the most important decisions a woman makes in her life. The responsibility of being a mother begins right away in the first trimester of pregnancy and never fades. Like most, I remember my pregnancies vividly. One of the most memorable feelings during both of my pregnancies was the overwhelming feeling that I’m selflessly giving my body to my unborn child. I had virtually no control of any of my bodily functions or my emotions. I was sleep deprived. I was forgetful. Many of us women would pee when we laughed, sneezed or coughed. My verbal skills were contorted so much so that when I said up I meant to say down and when I said right what I actually meant was left. My brain just couldn’t seem to organize itself the way it did before my pregnancy.
I remember conversations being cut short because I had trouble word-finding. Literally mid-sentence of a conversation I would have to conjure up all kinds of descriptions for things when I couldn’t find the right word to say. Training personal training clients was embarrassing from time to time. Most people were very forgiving and understanding about my brain fog. Sometimes though, my forgetfulness was almost confusing.
As I progressed through the trimesters of pregnancy and did more and more goofy things, people kept telling me not to worry because I obviously was experiencing “mommy brain”. Labeling the chaos “mommy brain” was a free hall pass of sorts so I leaned into it because I thought for sure it would end as soon as my pregnancy was over. Then, my worst nightmare came true. My mom brain didn’t end. In fact, the entire first year postpartum my mom brain fog felt denser and more suffocating. I decided to look further into this mom brain phenomenon and what I discovered is that I was not alone. The reality was that my brain changed when I became a mom and I would never quite be the exact same woman I was before I was a mom.
Mommy Brain and Science
In my research I discovered that mom brain is a scientifically proven adaptation of the human brain structure that mother’s undergo in order to have a successful pregnancy. This adaptation involves a flood of hormonal changes that increases the levels of estrogen, progesterone and oxytocin in a woman’s body. Estrogen rises to support the uterus and placenta’s role in the development of the growing fetus. Progesterone hormones surge to help loosen the ligaments and joints of the body in order to accommodate the growing baby. Oxytocin surges during labor and delivery to help contract the uterus and to help produce milk for breastfeeding. The female hormones bounce up and down substantially during motherhood.
Another adaptation that pregnancy causes is changes to the part of our brain that controls all the tiny fancy things we do, such as organizing language and physical cues from interpersonal behaviors. A prospective study involving first-time mothers and fathers showed substantial changes in brain structure, primarily reductions in gray matter volume in regions sub-serving social cognition. Social cognition is the perception, understanding, and implementation of linguistic, auditory, visual, and physical cues that communicate emotional and interpersonal information. Incredibly, the mother’s with the greater reduction in gray matter volume in their brain reported having the strongest bond with their baby.
So while you may experience a loss in social cognition, you gain intuition and sensitivity so that you are able to be a more responsive parent. I do feel like in many ways my mom brain has helped me be a better mom. Like a 6th sense, the bond I feel with my children is rich and unbreakable. My mom brain is part of the new me; the mom version of myself. Once we let go of the notion that mommy brain is bad, we can begin to realize that all the imperfections of motherhood is what makes motherhood so tremendously beautiful. So what if you forget where you left your car keys or accidentally put away the milk in the pantry and it spoils. It really is the minutiae of parenting that happens and doesn’t cause true harm to anyone. It creates humor and brings vulnerability to parenting that grounds us to reality. Without a doubt, mom brain is one of the many silver linings of motherhood.
Re-Frame Mom Brain
By re-framing mom brain as an asset and not a hindrance, the possibility of it’s benefits are unhinged. Join us in this 30 day wellness challenge to re-frame your mindset about your mom brain moments. Together we will embrace the forgetfulness, confusion, chaos, and social awkwardness of mommy brain so that you can clear the fog. Join The Mom Coach™ "on-Demand" for a 30 Day Re-frame Your Mom Brain Challenge.
About The Mom Coach™
Kelly Hater, aka, The Mom Coach™, owner of Mama Bear Domain, has over 15 years of coaching experience. She is a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) and has a bachelor's degree in Health Promotion from the University of Cincinnati.
She specializes in helping clients overcome mom burnout by empowering them to stop existing and start living. Her clients no longer let mom guilt steal their identity and goals. Moms deserve to be happy and live a fulfilling life. She personally has overcome overwhelming mom struggles herself and has first hand experience. Kelly gives her clients the accountability and support they need to take action. Go Join NOW The Mom Coach™ “on-demand” for the proven program, monthly challenges, journal entries and more.
1] 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
2] Brunton, P., Russell, J. The expectant brain: adapting for motherhood. Nat Rev Neurosci 9, 11–25 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn2280
3] Ali, S. A., Begum, T., & Reza, F. (2018). Hormonal Influences on Cognitive Function. The Malaysian journal of medical sciences : MJMS, 25(4), 31–41. https://doi.org/10.21315/mjms2018.25.4.3