By Georgia Hartmann
Becoming a mother is an incredible journey, but it can also be mentally and emotionally challenging. “Mum brain” is a term we often hear at Hormone Health Studio and it’s used to describe the forgetfulness, lack of focus, and general brain fog that many mothers experience after giving birth. While it’s common, there are many things we can do to support cognition, energy and mood postpartum.
So, if you, like me, struggle with ‘mum brain’, don’t add it to your ever-growing list of things to worry about. Here are 10 ways to help you stay mentally sharp throughout parenthood.
- Address nutritional deficiencies
Nutrition plays a crucial role in brain health, and a lack of certain vitamins and minerals can contribute to ‘mum brain’. Common nutrient deficiencies that can affect brain function include omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, vitamin D and iron. An interesting paper from 2020 showed that DHA, a particular omega-3 fatty acid, is required during pregnancy to not only support bub’s brain development but also to reduce the risk of postpartum depression. Iron plays a similar crucial role, with a recent systematic review concluding that iron is required to produce the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine, and lack of it contributes to depression and fatigue. [1-2] A naturopath can perform a nutrient assessment and recommend easy nutritional modifications and tailored supplementation to address any deficiencies.
- Support hormonal changes
There are huge hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy and after birth. Within the first 48 hours alone, oestrogen levels drop a whopping 95%, progesterone levels drop to nearly zero, and corticotropin-releasing hormone (which facilitates cortisol productions) also plummets. While these hormonal changes are normal, we must ensure that the mother is well nourished to prevent progression into postpartum depletion or depression.
- Reduce and manage stress
Managing stress is not only essential for maintaining good mental health but also to reduce ‘mum brain’. We can start reducing and managing stress today by first addressing what the main stressors are and establishing a plan to reduce stress where possible. Techniques such as daily mindfulness practice (even a 5-minute guided meditation with the Calm, Smiling Mind or Headspace app before bed), daily exercise, enjoying a solo cup of tea outside, going for an ocean swim, enjoying a massage, and a personalised nutritional and herbal medicine regime to reduce excessive cortisol production are effective in promoting relaxation and in turn combating ‘mum brain’. 
- Prioritise sleep
Getting 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep is a far-reach for many of us. So for those, like me, who have babies who aren’t overly interested in sleep, we must prioritise rest when we can. This may look like a day nap when bub sleeps, or going to bed with your children and getting more hours of rest overnight. (The housework and washing can wait – your mental health must come first).
- Avoid multitasking
Multitasking can lead to mental fatigue and decreased focus. While the evergrowing to-list can be overwhelming, focus on one thing at a time. Write a list, delegate where you can, and cross tasks off as you complete them. Avoiding multitasking will help reduce overwhelm and keep your mind sharp.
- Stay socially connected
Social support is crucial for maintaining good mental health, especially for parents. Stay connected with friends and family, and seek out opportunities to meet other mothers who can relate to your experience.
- Seek support from friends, family, or a therapist
Don’t be afraid to seek support from others, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, depleted or disconnected. Talking to friends, family or a therapist can help ease the load and improve mental clarity.