Memory loss during Pregnancy: Is it a Myth or Fact?

Many pregnant people report symptoms of what’s known as “pregnancy brain,” like forgetfulness, short periods of memory loss, and mental…

Pregnant woman looks down at her belly. (Getty Images)

A few weeks back, while nearing my last days of pregnancy, my rate of forgetfulness got worse. It started with forgetting my cell phone in one of the offices at work, and I could hardly recall where I placed it. Workmates tirelessly joined me and helped me look for the phone on hearing this. Unfortunately, tracing it was in vain.

After over four hours of looking for the cellphone with no hope, I sat down one more time, and tried to re-think hard on where I may have misplaced it. This is when I recalled a certain office I had been to. Re-checking was done, and the cellphone was finally found. Days before, I was fond of always forgetting other items like car keys, office keys, small money purses etc here and there, but luckily enough, they would all be traced later on after a hustle of searching for them.

The worst scenario happened almost during my last week of pregnancy, where, I had a training workshop in one of the districts outside Kampala. I prepared training materials for use as usual. The training team then came and picked me, and off, we travelled for our work. No-sooner had we reached the area of a destination than I remembered that I had forgotten the training materials at home, where I had neatly arranged them prior to travelling. Gosh! it was unbelievable. I then took a deep breath, and the whole team first froze a little bit. One of my colleagues said, “Imagine going to the garden to dig without a hoe”. It’s then that I realized and accepted that I had an issue with my memory aka memory loss/forgetfulness. 

The team was supportive, and we had to all think of the different ways on how we can be able to receive these training materials without fail, since the training was starting the following day, early morning. It’s then that we got a good Samaritan who was willing to travel over 100km to bring us these training materials. We were lucky to receive the materials. I had never experienced such high levels of memory loss in my previous pregnancies. I now prayed to have a safe delivery and have my memory return to normal.  

Researchers think that forgetfulness aka memory loss during pregnancy may be related to hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, stress, or brain changes during pregnancy. Research further shows that forgetfulness/memory loss is worst in the third trimester, but that said, some studies have found that memory loss and other cognitive problems may begin as early as the first trimester of pregnancy.

Various coping strategies/tips have been recommended for memory loss during pregnancy. These include; 

  • Keeping a daily calendar. Use the calendar app on your phone or carry a small planner with you.
  • Give important objects a “home.” Store things you use often, such as keys, in the same place, or invest in some high-tech trackers for your keys and wallet.
  • Set alarms and notifications. Schedule alerts for important meetings or tasks on your phone or computer.
  • Take snapshots. If you park your car in a large or crowded lot, snap a photo of the location with your phone. You can also use photos to save visual notes of things like slides at a meeting, event flyers, business cards, and magazine articles.
  • Use a note-taking app. Use an app on your phone to keep track of important information.
  • Try mnemonic devices. When you meet someone new, think of an association to help you remember the person’s name. 
  • Carry a notebook. Write down everything in a small notebook. It doesn’t need to be fancy 
  • Try to get good sleep. It can be hard to sleep well during pregnancy, but getting enough sleep will refresh your memory help you stay alert mentally.
  • Exercise. Working out regularly (with your healthcare provider’s approval) not only keeps you healthy during pregnancy, it can also sharpen your memory and help you sleep better at night, increasing your alertness during the day.
  • Ask for help. Ask your partner, family, or friends to pitch in with chores, errands, and childcare. A lightened load means less stress, which can affect your ability to remember things.
  • Simplify. Take a break from multitasking and prioritize what’s necessary and what’s not. Save your energy for the things that are really important to you.

It’s important to note that forgetfulness is both completely normal and extremely common during pregnancy. Even if you pride yourself on your master multitasking skills or your ability to stay organized, you still may find yourself having trouble concentrating or remembering your car keys.

The author; Lilian Nuwabaine Luyima; is a BSc Nurse & MSN-Midwife & Women’s’ Health Specialist working with Aga Khan University

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