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Losing your train of thought mid-sentence? Can’t seem to focus on anything for more than ten minutes? If you’re between 8 weeks and 20 weeks pregnant, you probably are suffering from 1st trimester funk. Or as some people call it, pregnancy brain.
Does being pregnant make you lose brain cells?
I’ve heard this my whole life, and it made me wonder about moms with 10+ children. Fortunately, a recent study published by The British Journal of Psychiatry has refuted this myth! Researcher Dr. Helen Christensen set out to test the theory that being pregnant makes you dumber. Ultimately, she concluded that while there seems to be such a thing as “pregnancy brain”, the composition and capacity of the brain was unaffected by pregnancy.
What causes Pregnancy Brain?
Don’t worry, you’re not just losing brain cells! Many factors contribute to the tiredness and foggiheadeness that is associated with the pregnancy brain. In these first stages of development, your baby may be the size of a raspberry, but your body is still spending much more energy now than it did before you were pregnant. Nutrition, exercise, and rest can all impact your 1st trimester pregnancy brain.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “eating for two”. Yes, you need some extra nutrients when you’re pregnant, but you don’t need to be squeezing an extra 2,000-3,000 calories into your day.
The further along in your pregnancy, the more energy your baby needs to develop. In the first trimester, pregnant women are encouraged to increase caloric intake by about 350 calories per day. As the baby grows, so does the amount of needed calories per day. By the third trimester, the average pregnant woman needs to be eating around 450 extra calories per day.
It’s good to gain weight
Don’t stress when you step on the scale! As your baby grows, the placenta does, too. This is most of the weight you gain during pregnancy. Depending on your pre-pregnancy weight and activity level, you’ll need to adjust your calorie intake to make sure you have the energy you need.
If you want to count calories…
Personally, I hate when people tell me what I can and can’t eat. Especially when I was pregnant, I wasn’t about to start limiting my queso-intake!
However, if you’re one of those people who’d like to keep track of your calories while pregnant, My Plate Plan might be for you. This feature is part of the USDA website. Put in your information, which trimester you’re in, and hit “submit” to get a three-tiered calorie goal plan, one for each trimester.
Nutrition and morning sickness
Sometimes it can be tough to keep down your breakfast. Trust me, I was there just about every morning. In fact, I barely ever ate breakfast because the thought of cooking anything also made me nauseous.
If you can, keep high protein, high (good) fats snacks around. Nuts, cubed cheese, boiled eggs, and peanut butter with apples or carrots are easy, healthy options. I had to force myself to take foods like these with me throughout my day because in the moment, I couldn’t imagine eating them. But later…
Pregnancy is weird.
This myth-busting article by FitPregnancy.com addresses most of the concerns you hear about pregnancy and exercise. The two biggest things to watch out for when exercising during pregnancy are 1) don’t push yourself past your limits (just think Cameron Diaz in What to Expect When You’re Expecting) and 2) don’t lay flat on your back – so this means those crunches are out!
Does exercise make you more tired?
If you’re like me, then exercising during pregnancy is one of your last concerns. I was more worried about simply keeping my prenatal vitamins down each day. But exercise will increase blood flow throughout your body, up your endorphins, and help your heart to function more efficiently. In the end, exercise will leave your body more energized than before. The key is knowing your limits. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about exercise during your pregnancy.
Safe exercises to do while pregnant
This post by FitPregnancy.com provides some exercises that are generally considered to be safe throughout every trimester of pregnancy. Even strength training, running, and swimming are usually considered to be safe during pregnancy, but know your limits.
Contrary to the age-old belief, Healthline tells pregnant women that, “If you didn’t exercise regularly before you got pregnant, now is the time to get in a habit that could serve you for a lifetime.” They also claim exercise can help fight morning sickness!
When to not exercise during pregnancy
If you have any of the following conditions, exercise is not suggested for you during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor before you try any type of exercise with:
- certain types of heart disease
- have restrictive lung diseases
- cervical incompetence or cerclage
- are pregnant with multiples and are at risk for preterm labor
- placenta previa after 26 weeks gestation
- preterm labor
- ruptured membranes during pregnancy
- preeclampsia or high blood pressure due to pregnancy
- severe anemia
Pregnancy is not usually a restful time for women. A 1998 poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found 78% of pregnant women reported sleep disturbances. Since then, the rates of working pregnant mamas haven’t changed significantly, and women have begun to report feeling more stress since 2016. When I was 39 weeks pregnant, I was going to school 7 hours every day of the week right up until my due date. I can attest to the fact that even expectant mamas are busy!
Sleep helps you to think better
Studies show that sleeping helps with your memory, clearing neurotoxins from your body, and thinking outside of the box. Even over the use of caffeine or other stimulants, sleep is proven to allow clearer thinking and the ability to better handle emotions.
Pregnancy hormones make sleeping harder
While battling pregnancy hormones, sleep is a weapon you need on your side. These hormones are all necessary and helpful for growing your baby, but they can sometimes be hard for mama to handle, especially when she’s trying to get some sleep.
Some of these hormones working against your restful slumber are progesterone, estrogen, and relaxin.
- Progesterone levels during the first trimester of pregnancy are anywhere from 15-60 ng/ml at their peak whereas at the beginning of your period, your body only produces about 0.5-1.5 ng/ml. This extra progesterone can make you have to use the bathroom more often, inflict cold-like symptoms, and give you heartburn.
- Estrogen contributes to morning sickness in the first trimester, and this can sometimes inhibit restful sleep.
- Relaxin helps your ligaments and joints to loosen in preparation for your uterus to expand and eventually for giving birth. Because your joints are looser, it can be easier to strain yourself and contract back aches.
Take a load off
Even if you are unable to sleep soundly, additional rest is crucial for expectant mamas. In the first trimester, your body may not look or feel much different (aside from the involuntary vomiting you may be experiencing). However, your body is working more and more the further along you are in your pregnancy.
Enjoy it! (as much as you can anyway)
Aside from taking time to rest your body, you should take this time to enjoy the process. While I don’t consider being pregnant to be much fun per se, the time before your little one arrives is fleeting. Enjoy time with your spouse, your other children, and your friends. Even if you’re working full-time throughout your pregnancy, take some time for yourself to do things you enjoy.
Most importantly, make sure you are mentally oriented for this drastic change in your life. As LCSW Erica Komisar warns in her book, “It’s often the case that women have very high or unrealistic expectations of what their experience of pregnancy and childbirth will be like.”
If you’ve been able to read this entire post, you must not have pregnancy brain too bad. Congratulations, new mama! Remember, pregnancy is just a phase, and it WILL end.
What are some of your “pregnancy brain” stories? Share with me by commenting below!
Love, Emily XOXO