Monday, 23 November 2009

Memory loss during pregnancy

Missed appointments, losing your train of thought mid-sentence, forgetting where you parked the car - sound familiar?

You're not alone; more than 50% of pregnant women experience some symptoms of memory loss during their pregnancy. The vast majority of symptoms described are related to short term memory functions; ones that process day-to-day transitory information that require concentration but that we only need to remember for a short while, such as shopping lists.

Although there hasn't been a huge amount of scientific research into this area, several studies have found a link between memory loss and pregnancy. However, as memory is such a complex phenomenon, when considering empirical research into this topic it is necessary to remain sceptical. This is because the results depend heavily on the type of memory test being used and this affects their ability to be generalised to the 'real world'.

More recent studies have found that while the performance of pregnant women on a series of different memory tests is no different to that of a woman who is not pregnant; pregnant women do perceive themselves as having more memory related problems.

Although this may be down to the tests not being sensitive enough to detect changes in different types of memory or the widely held belief that pregnancy has a negative affect on memory influencing the perception of their own memory performance; several studies have suggested that this phenomenon is simply due to information overload.

One study in particular found that pregnant women who reported higher levels of stress and anxiety also reported a significantly higher level of memory problems, whereas mums-to-be who felt happier experienced fewer symptoms. It wouldn't be at all surprising if the reason for forgetfulness during pregnancy is down to mums-to-be simply being overloaded with information.

During pregnancy you not only have to carry on with the day-to-day activities that filled your thoughts before you became pregnant, such as going to work or doing the shopping, you also have a huge amount to learn and prepare in anticipation of your new arrival. It makes sense that thoughts about your growing baby and the responsibility of becoming a parent take priority over less important information, pushing thoughts about groceries or electricity bills to the back of your mind.

A recent study into this area actually found that brain power increased during the later stages of pregnancy and on into motherhood, with relativly permanent changes in brain structure that increased motivation and empathy and enable mums-to-be to be better at multi tasking and prioritising - all qualities that are essential when you have a new baby to care for.

However, saying that there isn't a link between memory loss and pregnancy and that its really down to a combination of stress and generally having too much to do is all well and good if its not you that's forgetting things every 5 minutes. So, to help you through your forgetful times, here are some tips and memory techniques you can use throughout pregnancy.......

Repetition - believed by many to factilitate the transfer of information from short term memory into more permanent storage; repeating a name or item over and over will help you remember it when you need to.

Mneumonics - A mental imaging technique that uses word associations to help you remember. Using acronyms (where a list of words is remembered by using the first letter of every word on the list to form a new word or string of letters i.e. ABC - AskBaby.Com ) or mental imaging (where you associate an item on a list with a specific image) may help you to remember important items.

Health - Remember to exercise and eat healthily; this will not only ensure your brain has plenty of oxygen to help with thought processes but also will help to reduce stress.

Sleep - Get as much sleep as you can, this will help to reduce anxiety levels, improve concentration and hopefully help boost memory - (a half hour nap in the afternoon will do wanders if you're not sleeping well at night).

Carry a little notebook around with you so that you can constantly update your 'to do' list

Failing the above, cover your home in post it notes!!!

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