If you think delivering that gorgeous baby means an automatic return to your former mental self, think again. “Pregnancy brain” is real, and it can affect your postpartum brain as well. Example: Half of new moms still felt super sleepy 18 weeks after giving birth, according to a recent study published in PLOS One. Here’s what to expect:
What causes it: Many experts attribute the sluggishness to the upheaval of hormones that inevitably occurs after childbirth. But Shannon Seip, co-author of Momnesia (Andrews McMeel Publishing) and a mother of two in Madison, Wis., thinks sleep deprivation is just as much of a factor. “Since I adopted my second child, I didn’t have the issue with hormones that I did with my first,” she says. “But I was definitely sleep-deprived, and I definitely had momnesia.” (As proof of that, she points to the time when she arrived at work without her shoes.)
The huge learning curve of taking care of a newborn also contributes. “You’re gathering so much new information, so worried about simply keeping your baby alive and well-fed, that it consumes your brain,” Seip explains.
How long it lasts: While research shows the fogginess can last up to a year after having a baby, many women start to see at least some improvement once they adjust to their new lives. Getting more of that ever-elusive sleep also helps.
What you can do in the meantime: Besides laughing it off, try to find comfort in the small triumphs. “You may not be able to remember your husband’s name,” Seip says, “but take pride in the fact that you know your pediatrician’s phone number by memory or that you can operate your breast pump with your eyes closed.”
Also take advantage of a few memory joggers: Leave yourself voicemails; write notes on your palm; keep a pen and paper in several places so you can jot down important reminders. And if you’re concerned about being able to find those reminders, place Post-its in a prominent place. “One mom put them on her baby!” Seip says.