Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Is "pla­centa brain" real? - By Dr. Shadia Koury

Life Lessons by Dr. Shadia Koury

Q: Is "pla­centa brain" real? I am 6 months preg­nant and can't remem­ber any­thing ever since I got pregnant!
A: Yes, in the third trimester.
Women every­where have com­plained that they feel "out of it" or extremely absent-minded while they're preg­nant, and books, doc­tors, mid­wives, etc. have all warned expec­tant moth­ers about feel­ing quite scat­tered, dis­tracted, and unfo­cused. But, like any inter­est­ing topic, it's not entirely clear what the real answer is.
Accord­ing to the Wayne State Uni­ver­sity School of Med­i­cine Scribe:

Pamela Keenan, PhD has shown that women in their third trimester of preg­nancy expe­ri­ence for­get­ful­ness approx­i­mately 15 per­cent more than the aver­age per­son. Although there have been many anec­do­tal reports about for­get­ful­ness dur­ing preg­nancy, few stud­ies have looked at the sci­en­tific basis and mech­a­nisms respon­si­ble for this com­plaint. Accord­ing to stud­ies by Dr. Keenan, mem­ory recall only decreased in the third trimester of preg­nancy, when estro­gen lev­els peaked. Fur­ther­more, the third trimester was also char­ac­ter­ized by greater lev­els of reported anx­i­ety and depression.

Pos­si­ble cul­prits for the mem­ory loss could be high lev­els of oxy­tocin and/or cortisol, both of which can impair learn­ing and mem­ory func­tions.

On the flip side, Ros Craw­ley, PhD from the Uni­ver­sity of Sun­der­land says between 50% to 80% of preg­nant women believe they have some prob­lems with mem­ory or think­ing. But, when she tested them, she could not find per­va­sive, reli­able dif­fer­ences. This lack of a find­ing could just mean the right tests weren't cho­sen, that par­tic­u­lar group of women did not show the same third trimester decline, the deficits are more spe­cific and/or vari­able, or a num­ber of other pos­si­bil­i­ties. She con­cludes that there is a stereo­type of cog­ni­tive impair­ment in preg­nancy and that, while there is no evi­dence for a per­va­sive dete­ri­o­ra­tion in cog­ni­tive abil­ity, there may be changes in some spe­cific aspects of cog­ni­tive processing.

To round out the dis­cus­sion, another recent study found moth­er­hood can actu­ally facil­i­tate life­long learn­ing and mem­ory as well as pro­tect against age-related cog­ni­tive decline by com­bin­ing nat­ural hor­monal expo­sure with a lot of men­tal stim­u­la­tion from the new baby.

So where does this leave us? Obvi­ously, more research needs to be done to clar­ify what is going on and what mech­a­nisms are affected. Fatigue, depres­sion, and hor­mones like oxy­tocin and cor­ti­sol can cer­tainly impair cog­ni­tive func­tion. Yet estro­gen can be neu­ro­pro­tec­tive. It would also be inter­est­ing to more clearly under­stand which cog­ni­tive processes are affected, and if that is con­sis­tent across women or highly vari­able. It seems likely that decreased atten­tion is the under­ly­ing issue. The good news is that atten­tion can be trained and improved so that it doesn't require so much con­scious effort.

What can you do?
Get enough rest so that you can pay bet­ter atten­tion to what's going on around you.
Eat well to fuel your body and fur­ther fight fatigue. Don't for­get that you're eat­ing for two. (as if you could!)
Talk to your doc­tor about what exer­cise is right for you at each stage of your preg­nancy. Gen­er­ally, don't start or stop exer­cis­ing just because you're preg­nant. But do con­firm with your doc­tor in case you have spe­cial circumstances.
Sur­round your­self with loved ones because it feels nice and also helps reduce stress, which in turn helps your mem­ory and attention.
Stay men­tally active - read, play games, do puz­zles, get the lat­est sudoku book.
ADJUSTMENTS

Dr. Koury is the Owner of Chiropractic 4 life!

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