They call it “momnesia”: those times you put the milk in the cupboard instead of the refrigerator; or you walk into a room, only to forget why you’re there. But “mommy brain” is more than a punch line, says Shoshana Bennett, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in San Ramon, Calif., who specializes in prenatal and postpartum counseling. Experts say it’s a very real neurological issue resulting from powerful endocrine and brain chemistry changes. Fortunately, Bennett says, you can take steps to minimize the impact of mommy brain:
>Trimester 1 Start eating brain food
Eating foods high in tryptophan (a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can boost brainpower), including oats, bananas and turkey, can improve memory. Apples, blueberries and onions contain a memory-boosting flavonoid called quercetin, and lean protein foods provide key amino acids that function as neurotransmitters.
>Trimester 2 Establish healthy sleep habits
As little as 5 ½ hours straight can give you a full sleep cycle, which is ideal. If you’re still feeling drowsy, try a power nap: Research shows these quick snoozes can improve brain function and memory.
>Trimester 3 Develop a structure
Baby’s arrival can create organizational havoc. To prepare, get your home ready by deciding on a place to put your purse, keys, diaper bag and other essentials every time you walk in the door. Also, starting a list-making habit can be a lifesaver.
>Throughout pregnancy Get your game on
Research shows that video games in which you problem solve or work through patterns, like Nintendo’s Brain Age, Popcap’s Bejeweled or your newspaper’s Sudoku puzzle, can improve memory and brain function.