Most new mothers have memory lapses and, in fact, scientists have labelled ‘mumnesia’ as a medical condition.
This phenomenon has been extensively studied by researchers throughout the world, and the conclusions are that postnatal forgetfulness can be put down to four main factors: priorities, pain, hormones and fatigue.
There are several factors at work here. Firstly, ‘baby brain’ is part of the way mothers subconsciously readjust their lives after giving birth. New mums are dedicated to serving that little infant, determined to keep him or her alive no matter what – consequently, less important matters get forgotten, or at least put into a less active area of the brain.
Secondly, forgetfulness is part of women’s defence mechanism after the pain and rigours of childbirth. Thirdly, women’s oestrogen levels plunge from incredibly high in late pregnancy to virtually non-existent after childbirth. And while oestrogen plays a key role in fertility, it also acts as a neurotransmitter, sending signals in the brain.
Lastly, new mothers – as any would testify – get tired. Researchers estimate that a woman can lose up to 700 hours of sleep in her baby’s first year. Women who breastfeed lose the most, and fatigue is crucial when it comes to ability to remember things. It is usually a short-term problem, lasting only a few months before things improve.
The good news is that research shows that often women eventually find they have better memories and are more able to cope with multitasking than before their babies were born. There is no evidence that having an epidural affects the memory.