What Pregnancy Brain Feels Like
Pregnancy brain is “the feeling of walking into a room, going after something, and not remembering what you went for about five to 10 times a day,” Brizendine says.
There may also be an evolutionary aspect to it. Womens health expert Donnica Moore, MD, says, “It has been postulated that, from an evolutionary standpoint, this memory impairment may be helpful so that women will forget about other stuff and focus on caring for the child.”
Chapter : Third Trimester
The third trimester of pregnancy begins at week 28, or at six months of your pregnancy term. You will be well on your way to building your nest at this point, as the instinctual urge to nest will have kicked in during the second trimester, and the idea of parenthood may be becoming very tangible to you as your delivery approaches.
Babies can now blink their eyes, have eyelashes, are developing fingernails and toenails, and have some hair. Not to mention, they will be adding billions of neurons to their brain. Your baby will spend its final trimester in utero putting on weight.
Make A Difference In Your Babys Brain Development
During the last decade, exciting new research has given parents and infant-care professionals a deeper understanding of how a babys brain develops. Baby brain growth used to be viewed as a sort of a developmental elevator. At each floor the door automatically opens and a new skill gets on. Given a reasonable amount of nurturing, healthcare, and adequate nutrition, the brain grows, and babies would graduate from one developmental stage to another at a pace determined both by nature and nurture . The interplay between nature and nurture determines how a babys brain develops.
This simplistic view of baby brain growth is partially true, but theres more. While it is true that each babys potential is partially determined by genetics, how close the infant comes to reaching her potential is greatly determined by the responsiveness and nurturing of her caregiving environment.
In terms of the elevator analogy, the baby reaches each developmental floor already equipped with certain competencies. How these competencies flower into skills depends upon the interaction with the caregiving environment a baby finds on that floor. If the interaction is responsive and enriching, the baby gets back on the elevator with more skills and the ride up to the next floor is much smoother. Because baby reaches the next floor with more skills, the interaction on the next level of development is even more rewarding.
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How To Support Your Babys Brain Development
Its important to consume at least 600 mg of folate, or folic acid, during the first trimester and 400 mg later in pregnancy. This vitamin supports brain and spinal development, ensuring that the spinal tube fuses correctly and stimulating the growth of the brain throughout your pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins, created specifically to deliver the nutrients necessary during pregnancy, contain extra folate. If you arent getting enough from your diet, consult with your doctor about the best kind of prenatal vitamins for you. You can also get folate naturally from your food, specifically flax seed, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables.
Its important to consume at least 600 mg of folate, or folic acid, during the first trimester and 400 mg later in pregnancy. This vitamin supports brain and spinal development, ensuring that the spinal tube fuses correctly and stimulating the growth of the brain throughout your pregnancy.
Eating a balanced diet of whole foods and drinking plenty of water will help your baby’s brain develop properly.
Is Pregnancy Brain Real
Its normal to feel like youre in a fog during pregnancy. Between doctor appointments, a new diet and changes to your body, not to mention the endless amount of information youre trying to absorb, theres a lot on your mind. So when you leave your keys in the fridge or cant find your phone for the fifth time that day, its understandable. Old wives tales chalk up this state of forgetfulness to pregnancy brainbut is pregnancy brain real? Here, we take a hard look at the science to get some answers.
In this article:
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The Parts Of A Babys Brain
Your babys brain will grow five main parts, each responsible for a different aspect of directing the body and the mind and decision making:
- The cerebrum is responsible for thinking, feeling, and memory. Its the largest part of the brain and contains the cerebral cortex and the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.
- The cerebellum is responsible for directing the bodys motor control, from moving arms and legs to the fine motor skills of pinching and grasping.
- The brain stem controls the vital functions that keep the body alive. These are mainly involuntary systems like heartbeat, blood pressure, and breathing. It also controls the digestive process, although hunger cues come from elsewhere.
- The pituitary gland is in charge of releasing most of the hormones in the body that direct the metabolism, ovulation, growth, and more.
- The hypothalamus regulates body temperature, hunger and thirst cues, sleep, and emotions.
Ultrasounds during your pregnancy will allow your doctor to monitor brain development and make sure each part is growing according to schedule.
Is Pregnancy Brain Normal
Forgetfulness is both completely normal and extremely common. Even if you pride yourself on your master multitasking skills or your ability to stay organized, you still may find yourself having trouble concentrating or remembering your car keys.
The good news is its also temporary you’ll have total recall again long before you start to have your “senior moments.”
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When Is A Babys Brain Fully Developed
The science gets pretty complicated here but, in simple terms, the brainstem continues to develop throughout the second trimester. After that, the cerebral cortex, which will be responsible for everything from processing information from their senses to storing their first memories, develops more and more quickly as the third trimester goes on.
Of course, its difficult to say when a babys brain is fully developed because they still have so much to learn after theyre born. In fact, brain development continues until were about 25 years old .
Science Cant Determine What Images A Babys Brain Conjures During Sleep And The Babies Arent Talking
Watching a baby sleep is one of the greatest pleasures of parenthood. There is so much joy in watching them breathe softly while their peaceful angelic faces shift from sleep sucking to tiny sleep smiles. But do those facial movements mean babies have started dreaming? Its hard to say. Because even with sophisticated brain scanning equipment, its impossible to say exactly when babies start dreaming because we cant possibly see what they see inside their heads while they sleep. That said, there are clues as to when baby dreams might start. And its possible they might begin far earlier than most parents would assume.
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In The First Three Years A Childs Brain Has Up To Twice As Many Synapses As It Will Have In Adulthood
Now that were a little more familiar with the fundamentals of the brain, lets take a look at brain development in children. Between conception and age three, a childs brain undergoes an impressive amount of change. At birth, it already has about all of the neurons it will ever have. It doubles in size in the first year, and by age three it has reached 80 percent of its adult volume.8-10
Even more importantly, synapses are formed at a faster rate during these years than at any other time. In fact, the brain creates many more of them than it needs: at age two or three, the brain has up to twice as many synapses as it will have in adulthood . These surplus connections are gradually eliminated throughout childhood and adolescence, a process sometimes referred to as blooming and pruning.11
The Positive Birth Movement
Though it may have been confirmed as a real thing, the researchers do admit that there is a way to go before determining exactly why women experience baby brain, and just how long it lasts for after giving birth.
“An intriguing study published last year showed there were reductions in grey matter in the brains of pregnant women in regions known to be closely tied to processing social information, such as decoding infant facial expressions and establishing healthy bonding between mum and baby,” Sasha Davies, one of the studys authors wrote in The Conversation.
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Genes Provide A Blueprint For The Brain But A Childs Environment And Experiences Carry Out The Construction
The excess of synapses produced by a childs brain in the first three years makes the brain especially responsive to external input. During this period, the brain can capture experience more efficiently than it will be able to later, when the pruning of synapses is underway.11 The brains ability to shape itself called plasticity lets humans adapt more readily and more quickly than we could if genes alone determined our wiring.18 The process of blooming and pruning, far from being wasteful, is actually an efficient way for the brain to achieve optimal development.
Poor Diet In Babies Can Damage The Hypothalamus But This Can Recover As They Grow Up
When the rats were done feeding from their mothers milk and it was time for them to eat solid food, we gave all the rats, the fat ones and the thin ones, a healthy rat food. This food is a wee bit boringit looks a bit like cardboard, and we are sure they would prefer a burger now and then, but it is very healthy for the rats and contains all the ingredients they need.
After these rats had all been fed this healthy diet for a really long timeuntil they were grown up, we looked at their brains. Here, we found something really exciting. The feeding neurons had become normal! The feeding neurons were the same in the hypothalamus of the fat rats as they were in the control group! The grown-up fat rats were also able to respond to leptin in the same way that the thin, control rats did. The other really interesting thing we found is that the hypothalamus of female rats comes back to normal much more easily than the hypothalamus of male rats . We do not know why this is, yet.
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Baby Brain Development: Cognitive Development
Baby brain development technically begins during the third week of your pregnancy, when rapidly multiplying cells form whats called the neural plate. This structure eventually folds in on itself to become the neural tube, which later gives rise to the forebrain, midbrain, hindbrain, and spinal cord. As early as five weeks after conception, neurons the information-processing cells that pass signals throughout the central nervous system begin to form, divide, and multiply in these regions of your developing babys brain.
The most active period of baby brain development takes place during the middle of the second trimester, when 250,000 neurons are created every minute. The neurons begin to migrate to different regions of your developing babys brain, where they take on specific roles, such as interpreting sounds and storing memories, and form connections with other neurons – leading up to the sixth month of pregnancy.
During this time of heightened baby brain development, the cerebral cortex the area associated with the brains higher functions, such as language and abstract thought grows more rapidly than the brains other structures. By the seventh month of your pregnancy, it houses 70 percent of the neurons in your developing babys brain.
What Is Melatonin And When Does A Babys Brain Start Producing It
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland portion of our brains. It helps to regulate our 24-hour sleep-wake cycles, and can be thought of as one of the oils that helps the gears of our internal body clock run properly. Babies who were born full-term typically do not yet have a developed clock before 3-4 months oldand this is when a babys brain starts producing melatonin. If your baby was born prematurely, she might not start this process until a couple of months later , depending on how early she was born.
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How The Brain Circuits Work
The tip of each neuron resemble finger-like feelers attempting to make connections with other nerves. During development two important improvements are made on the growing infants nervous system.
This new and exciting field is called neurobiology, which in essence tells us that the more connections the nerve cells make, the smarter the childs brain.
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When Does The Brain Stop Developing
Your babys brain will continue to mature throughout childhood with researchers estimating that the brain only stops developing around age 25!
During the first three to five years of your little ones life, the brain develops rapidly. By the age of 9, all of the major structures are in place.
That certainly doesnt mean brain development is done. The prefrontal lobe is the last area of the brain to develop, starting during the teen years. The prefrontal cortex plays an important role in what you might call adulting functions: goal-oriented decision making, memory encoding and retrieval, language and even intelligence. Until its fully developed, the amygdala tends to drive decision-making.
From the What to Expect editorial team and Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. What to Expect follows strict reporting guidelines and uses only credible sources, such as peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and highly respected health organizations. Learn how we keep our content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial policy.
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The Fundamentals Of Early Learning
If intelligence is the ability to learn, then babies are born geniuses!
While a baby’s brain has the potential to learn just about anything, parents have an important role to play in determining just how much – and how easily – their baby learns. Here, we discuss the key issues to bear in mind when teaching your baby.
How Babys Might Dream
Newborn sleep cycles can be as short as 45-minutes with periods of wakefulness in between. Even though the cycles are short they still contain periods of REM sleep and deeper non-REM sleep. As babies grow the sleep cycles get longer until they have more typical 90-minutes cycles with periods of wakefulness in between.
REM sleep cycles in babies are just as crucial for brain development as they were in the womb. But they are also far cuter to observe. Parents might notice this REM sleep while watching a baby sleep characterized by the eyes seeming to dart back and forth and up and down behind the eyelids. Along with these eye movements, parents might see their baby make sucking movements or even smile. These may be indications that an infant is dreaming. They do have plenty to dream about with the sheer amount of input they have to receive and process when theyre awake. Its possible that babies dream of their parents faces and voices. Its possible that they dream of the environments in which theyve spent time during the day. Its even possible that they dream of breastfeeding. Alas, well never know because they cant tell us.
Importantly, Moore says that REM sleep isnt particularly deep. When youre in REM sleep you can easily wake up out of it. So if youre going to watch your baby dream, do so quietly.
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How Brain Connections Are Built
Starting from birth, children develop brain connections through their everyday experiences. Theyre built through positive interactions with their parents and caregivers and by using their senses to interact with the world. A young childs daily experiences determine which brain connections develop and which will last for a lifetime. The amount and quality of care, stimulation and interaction they receive in their early years makes all the difference.
Path To Improved Health
Pregnancy begins when a mans sperm fertilizes a womans egg. Since you dont always know when fertilization occurred, doctors calculate pregnancy based on the first day of your last menstrual period . Your doctor will count forward 40 weeks from your LMP to estimate the due date. Most births occur between weeks 38 and 42. If you have an ultrasound early in your pregnancy, your doctor may measure the baby to determine your due date instead.
After conception, your baby begins a period of dramatic change known as the embryonic stage. This stage runs from the 5th through the 10th week of pregnancy. During this stage, the baby is called an embryo.
There are numerous changes that occur during the embryonic stage. First, the cells of the embryo multiply and develop. They become the hundreds of different types of cells needed to make a whole human body. Your babys major organs and body parts begin to take shape.
The placenta forms during the embryonic stage. The placenta takes nutrients, oxygen, and water from your blood and passes these along to your baby through the umbilical cord. It also removes the babys wastes. The placenta will filter out most of the harmful substances that may be present in your body.
The amniotic sac forms during this stage as well. It is filled with amniotic fluid, which surrounds and protects your baby in the uterus.
Below are some of the highlights that occur during the embryonic stage.
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