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Does "Mommy Brain" Really Exist?

May 28, 2015

Is “mommy brain” a real thing? Unfortunately, the answer is yes—and it can last for up to 10 years after childbirth.

Your body and mind go through a lot after having a baby. Adjusting to life with a new addition is a challenge for anyone. Between the sleepless nights and chronic exhaustion, it’s no surprise that some people may experience some degree of fatigue and memory loss after pregnancy.

According to researchers, you aren’t alone. It’s called postnatal depletion, a condition that can disrupt a new mother’s hormonal, nutritional and emotional profiles for a long time after childbirth.


During pregnancy, a woman passes on important nutrients in the form of vitamins, minerals and DHA fatty acids (an omega-3 fatty acid involved in brain development) to her growing baby to support its growth. Coupled with this nutritional depletion, a mother-to-be’s brain may shrink by up to 5 percent while she’s pregnant. After the baby arrives, a mother’s mental energy transfers over to caring for this new arrival.

When you consider all this, “mommy brain” exists for a very important biological reason. But that still doesn’t make it easier to deal with.

Many Patients Experience “Mommy Brain”

We see cases of postnatal depletion every day in our practice. Marked by symptoms of fatigue, memory loss, lack of concentration, poor energy levels and exhaustion, it can occur in up to 50 percent of patients. It can get worse because of sleep deprivation, poor nutrition and vitamin deficiency.

Time between pregnancies also can affect the severity of “mommy brain.” If the time between one pregnancy and the next is short, the body doesn’t have enough time to recover and replenish the nutritional deficiencies that occur as the result of the previous pregnancy.

Motherhood is a demanding task, one that requires constant mental and physical energy. It’s a selfless act that requires you to put someone else first all the time. But even amidst all this, it’s important for you to take care of yourself, as well.

Dealing with Postnatal Depletion

If you’ve experienced memory loss, chronic exhaustion or have trouble concentrating, talk to your doctor and get a nutritional assessment. After childbirth, you may experience vitamin and nutritional deficiencies that lead to these symptoms, so you may need to continue taking prenatal vitamins and DHA fatty acids after giving birth. Most new mothers have limited free time, but getting proper sleep and exercise and engaging in relaxation techniques like yoga and acupuncture can help you better manage stress and stay healthy.

Motherhood is an incredible journey, but it’s also a very challenging one. Given all that a woman has on her plate after childbirth, it’s understandable that this major life change could lead to other physiological changes, as well. But with proper nutrition and adequate rest—which I know is easier said than done after childbirth—you will begin to feel better.

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