Missing an appointment. Trying to find a word that's right at the tip of your tongue. Struggling to remember where you left your keys. Everyone forgets things from time to time, but moms have given it a name: "mom-nesia" or mommy brain.
Mom-nesia seems to afflict moms who have just given birth. "Postpartum memory loss is a recognized phenomenon that is currently being studied by medical researchers," says Harold Louis E. Trinidad, M.D., founding partner of Better Steps Psychology, Inc. "This is most likely caused by the effects of the increased level s of female hormones in the brain. Abrupt changes in hormone levels also affect brain function, [and] these changes are often observed in mood and cognition."
Aside from battling these hormones, new moms also have to deal with the lifestyle adjustment that comes with caring for a newborn. "New and different activities that [a new mom] is not used to doing require so much more brain power than usual that other functions of the brain take a backseat to these higher functions," Dr. Trinidad adds.
Should you worry? TV shows and movies may have you believe that mom-nesia is a step away from dementia or Alzheimer's disease. But with these disorders, "we talk of [a] cognitive and functional decline that has affected the activities of daily living so much that there are things that the person can no longer do because of the memory problem," says Michelle M. Anlacan, M.D., training officer at the Adult Neurology residency training program at The Medical City. See a specialist only if you find that your forgetfulness is getting in the way of doing things such as transacting at the bank, using everyday gadgets, or traveling alone.
Dr. Trinidad adds, "If mom-nesia extends to being unable to recognize people, places, and objects that should be familiar, a consultation with a specialist is advised." If memory loss persists beyond a year, you should also consult your OB-gyn and a neurologist specializing in memory.
If none of these sound like you, then there's no cause for worry. Instead, heed these tips:
1. Pay attention. Just because you don't have to worry doesn't mean you should accept forgetfulness as a way fo life. There are many ways you can boost your memory and brain power, starting with two words: full attention.
"Most of the time, not enouch attention is given to a particular task, so we fail to remember or execute the job well," Dr. Anlacan points out, citing multi-tasking as one the brain's greatest enemies. "Attention is the sister of memory. Without having paid good attention, you cannot expect good memory of a deed, a task, or an event."
2. Take care of your body. What works for the rest of your body also works for your brain, starting with a proper diet. "There aren't really particular foods or nutrients that have been shown to specifically benefit memory or brain power. However, for optimal functioning of the nervous system, the most important nutrients would be those that support overall cellular functions," says Dr. Trinidad, who suggests foods rich in vitamin B, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids. "Eating your fair share of fruits and evegetables ensures that you don't lack the essential vitamins and minerals necessary to maintain brain and body health," Dr. Anlacan adds.
Also add exercise to your daily routine. "Regular physical exercise, even before the onset of middle age and flab, is actually your best bet in improving memory," says Dr. Anlacan. She suggests giving dance classes a try, as "you not only enjoy dancing, you also keep your brain alert for the next moves and steps."
3. Exercise your brain. When you're feeling sluggish, don't you feel that your brain is slowing down, too? Dr. Anlacan suggests coupling physical exercise with building more connections in the brain by doing activities such as solving sudoku or crossword puzzles, reading, engaging in intelligent conversations with family and friends, and constantly learning new things.
"It's also advisable to write things down," Dr. Trinidad adds. "Your brain creates a stronger connection to an idea or thought when it is written down as compared to being typed."
4. Get enough sleep. Sleep may seem like a luxury especially to new moms, but this is actually the best thing you can do to boost your brain power. "During sleep, neural connections are formed and strengthened, and neurons get a chance to rest and get rid of waste. Inadequate rest will only worsen memory functions," Dr. Trinidad explains. "Getting enough sleep is also critical to good attention, learning, and memory," Dr. Anlacan adds.
In the end, there is no magic pill to boost your memory and brain power. The real solution to mommy brain is to take care of your entire self -- body, heart, and mind.