Baby Brain – the real cause

Baby Brain or Pregnancy Brain: A temporary condition whereby short-term memory loss or forgetfulness occurs that may happen in the first trimester but more common in the third trimester of pregnancy and may continue into the postpartum and breast feeding period.

Studies have shown that a pregnant woman’s brain by the third trimester of pregnancy could shrink up to as much as 3% and not expand to normal size until six months postpartum.  The shrinkage is caused by the Omega 3-fatty acids (3 & 6), or Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) being drawn off by the baby through the placental cord.

DHA is crucial in fetal brain development and if a mother doesn’t have enough EFAs in her diet the omega 3-fatty acids will be depleted from her tissues.   As a result of a lack of omega-3 in the body, there can be a communication breakdown in the brain and thus Pregnancy Brain.

So YES ladies, Baby Brain is real and it occurs in most pregnancies.  So how can you lower the risk or NOT be affected by it?  By making sure your diet is rich in ALL the Omegas 3, 6 and fish oils.

The Editors of FC&A Medical Publishing write in The Folk Remedy Encyclopedia, “Just like a machine, your brain needs oil — in the form of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids — to run smoothly. Unfortunately, the average diet doesn’t usually contain the right balance of these fatty acids.”

Omega 3 & 6 Essential Fatty Acids

If you eat a typical modern diet, you probably get plenty of Omega-6 through corn, soybean, cottonseed, sunflower, mayonnaise and salad oil sand other oils in processed food.  Most Americans generally have a much higher intake of the omega-6s than the omega-3s. Omega-6s are found in most tissues in the body as opposed to Omega-3s that are concentrated in the brain and retina.  However omega-3 oils, which are just as important, are often missing.

Two very important Omega-3 fatty acids are EPA and DHA (eicosapentanoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid ) which are important ingredients for optimal brain function.  These EFA’s are found in seafood, especially mackerel, salmon, striped bass, rainbow trout, halibut, tuna, and sardines not to mention walnuts and various nuts.    Remember the saying, “Fish is brainfood?”  Its true.

Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial because they provide fluidity to cell membranes and improve communication between brain cells. The result is a well functioning brain.

Pregnant women need Omega-3s

A baby is born with a brain which is almost 25 per cent of its adult size. This is huge compared to anything else in the body.  If a pregnant woman does not have enough omega-3 fatty acids in her diet, a growing baby will rob the fatty acids from her tissues.  If a woman has additional children and does not replace the missing EFAs,she will have lower levels of DHA with each subsequent child.   This may leave the mother vulnerable to depression, as a lack of DHA has been linked with postpartum depression.

If low, EFA levels in the mother will continue to decline throughout the breastfeeding period, with repercussions to both her breastfeeding baby and subsequent children.  Essential fatty acid deficiency has been shown to play a key role in many growth and developmental difficulties such as: learning, behavioral, nervous and immune related disorders.

It seems plausible that the wide spread prevalence of postpartum depression could be due at least in part to EFA deficiency. It is well established that essential fats play a substantial role in the prevention and treatment of depression. Chronic deficiencies originating during this critical time period may also explain why women tend to experience far more depression, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and autoimmune disease than men.

The cause and occurrence of “pregnancy brain” and the potential consequences of declining EFA status in women of childbearing years is also important.

Pregnant women need to actively manage their diet during pregnant and during the postpartum period and throughout the breastfeeding period if you choose to breast feed.  It is as important to continue putting proper nutrition and vitamins into your body for your recovery as it was to take them while you were pregnant with your baby.

Continue to take supplements that include B12 and oils that contain Omegas 3 & 6 on a daily basis for at least one year after giving birth.

If you are planning for your first child or subsequent children make sure you take a daily multi-vitamin supplement, folic acid, and food or oils that contain the Omegas.

Make a plan

Create a plan and actively manage your nutrition intake. Various studies and ample evidence-based proof warns us of the danger of what a deficiency of EFA can lead to.  Err on the side of caution and take the necessary actions to ensure your internal health is just as good as your external health.