Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"Baby Brain"???

I'd never heard of so-called "Baby Brain", a loss of mental focus and concentration in expectant mothers, but a correspondent in the Telegraph alleges his wife suffered from it during pregnancy.  Here's an excerpt from his article.

Amidst all the excitement of expecting a new baby, baby brain – which kicks in with cruel timing at just about the exact moment morning sickness subsides (16 weeks approx) – can be a real challenge for couples to cope with. It’s an exhausting spanner lobbed into the daily routine. Baby brain, not something you read much about in the books, has even been compared to temporary Alzheimer’s.

It was so bad after our second child (baby brain can continue for a year or more post-natal) that my wife, in distress, did actually call the Alzheimer’s association to ask if it was possible that she was suffering from early onset of the disease.

The suspected cause of baby brain – which has been shown to get worse with each pregnancy - is that the mother’s body is so hard at work building the baby’s brain that it neglects to conserve enough nutrients to nourish the mother’s grey matter.

. . .

There are many studies on the consumption of fish oil, fish, raw fish – some of them are rounded up here - and they have come up with wildly varying results on the effects of DHA consumption on the braininess (or otherwise, the fish oil backlash is well underway) of your child.

But there is no study anywhere that has researched the effect of DHA on baby brain.

And although my trial has just one subject, the results are staggering. My wife’s ditziness has decreased massively since she started taking the DHA.

There’s still the odd total blank-out (the other day she was giving a talk about the artist Eileen Gray, and listened attentively to one of the crowd asking a question during the Q+A, before turning to one of her co-panelists and saying, “What did they just ask me?”) but they are fewer and further between. If forced to put a number on it, I’d say her brainpower is 50% better. She reckons she is functioning at 80% of normal brain power.

There's more at the link.

Intrigued, I looked for more information. WebMD and the Mayo Clinic were ambivalent in their articles on the subject, but it seems it's a recognized phenomenon, even though there doesn't seem to be any concensus about what causes it or how to treat it.

What about you, readers?  Can any of you tell us more about this from your own experience, or your spouse's?

(I don't think this has anything to do with pregnancy cravings, which are very well-known and a completely different thing.  My father reported that when she was carrying me, my mother demanded spinach with peanut butter . . . a combination I've made sure to avoid ever since!)



Old NFO said...

Honestly never heard of that one...

Evyl Robot Michael said...

Jennifer was a loon when she was pregnant, and much of her behavior matches the symptoms mentioned here, although she was never diagnosed with anything. Honestly, it's refreshing to see any kind of explanation for her difficulty while expecting. It was particularly bad during her third trimester when she became extremely forgetful, lethargic, and emotional.

Anonymous said...

My wife suffered with this sort of thing during her pregnancies. After the kids were grown and gone she started to have more and more instances and eventually almost always, these sort of issues. After a LOT of testing, she was diagnosed with Graves Disease, hyper-Thyroid. I would suspect that the over action of the Thyroid during the pregnancies has some thing to do with the whole. Hormone swings are huge, and even with her thyroid dead and on medications, pri-menopuase has been a real ride! Baby brain all over again...



Jennifer said...

100% true. It was so frustrating. I knew that I was impaired. I just couldn't do anything about it. It was like living in a fog. Most people are jealous of my easy pregnancy. No morning sickness, very little weight gain. But if the baby brain thing gets worse with subsequent pregnancies, I'm glad I just had one.

Chuck said...

"Baby Brain" has to be a misogynist fraud perpetrated by penis-bearing rednecks because Women.

Everyone knows women are the smartest beings on the planet, right after King Obama, and even if Baby Brain were true, women have so much more smart than any other gender any loss of brain capacity is nature's way of keeping them only twice as smart as men.

If you don't believe me, ask anyone at the New York Times or Washington Post (extra points for starting with Richard Cohen). Or watch any 3 evenings of television sitcoms and the Oprah rerun of your choice (which reminds me, anyone seen Sally Jessie Rafael? I have a recipe she said she wanted.....)

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I used the same analogy (Alzheimer's) to describe "chemo brain," which makes me less than effective while undergoing chemotherapy. Wonder if the natural changes have the same effect as my artificial ones? Sure sounds like the same stuff to me!

Peter said...

@MichigammeDave: Perhaps it's not chemotherapy. Perhaps you're pregnant.


Shrimp said...

My wife went through it four times, and it was different each time. It changed in intensity (the girls were worse, but the boys' lasted longer, IIRC) but the symptoms were the same as described. She was forgetful (something my wife has never been!) and often in a fog. She cried at the stupidest things, and her energy levels changed all the time. One day she'd be cleaning out the bathrooms and the kitchen and the crawl space and the next she'd want to do nothing and hide in bed.

She always blamed it on hormonal changes that happen with the baby, and the doula that taught the lamaze class warned all of us this was coming.

The one thing I clearly remember about the class was the doula telling us every pregnancy is different, just like every person is different. What YOU experience during your pregnancy will be different from what other women experience during their pregnancies. There will be similarities, such as morning sickness, and cravings, but there will be differences that are unique to you. Just because your mom had really terrible morning sickness with her boys, doesn't mean you will, nor will it mean you are having a boy just because you are having terrible morning sickness.

All I know is my wife is an amazing woman, having gone through it four times, and she's still willing to go through it again, should the circumstances allow it.

Peter B said...

In a real shocka, the joint organism of mother and developing baby prioritizes the developing fetal brain and eyes, for which DHA is the primary structural fat.

Without attention to dietary sources or supplementation during pregnancy AND breastfeeding, maternal DHA levels are depleted by successive pregnancies.

The essential fatty acid story is pretty important. It looks as though the ratio between omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids is a much better predictor of cardiovascular risk than cholesterol.

pediem said...

I see it all the time at work. We have so many residents rotating with us that we see over and over, multiple times during their 3 or 4 years of training. This means that I'll work with them when they are and are not pregnant (or are at various points during multiple pregnancies). Many of my nurses are also variously always pregnant.

The general term we use at work is "placental steal". The baby is stealing mom's blood supply, nutrients, and oxygen from mom. I don't know that there's any specific one that makes it worse than all of the rest, but any pregnant or breastfeeding mother who fails to keep up on her supplements is going to be foggy, forgetful, and foolish.

I just know that I have to keep an extra close eye on anyone I'm supervising who is pregnant or breastfeeding.