Skip to main content

Get updates

Keys in the fridge and other signs you might have pregnancy brain

Women sitting on a couch together talking

After morning sickness and bizarre cravings, pregnancy brain might be one of the most common experiences that veteran moms warn pregnant women about. “Get ready for your brain not to work the same way.” “You’re going to forget things.” If those kinds of foreboding predictions have your blood pressure rising, hopefully you can find some comfort in the real experiences of local moms (including me).

You might be experiencing pregnancy brain if…

  • You can’t find the word for…what was it again?Science isn’t exactly sure why, but many pregnant women report having trouble thinking of words that would typically come to them easily. This can be embarrassing when it’s the name of your child or your sister you’ve forgotten, but it’s no cause for worry.  
  • You leave your stories on a cliffhanger. By accident. Have you ever been telling a co-worker about your weekend and, mid-sentence, your brain just goes blank and you have no clue what you were going to say next, even after they remind you of what you said last? Yeah, me too. I feel your pain. Good news is, most people don’t mind you leaving a story half-finished.
  • Your usually-organized self is a little more scattered. I’ve always been a super organized person and when I was pregnant with my first child, I’d find things that were falling by the wayside. I felt like I wasn’t myself and the things that used to come very easily to me, like multitasking or organizational tasks, became much more effortful. That was not like me at all and it took me a while to come to terms with it. Fellow mom Meghan remembers when she got pregnant that she was annoyed at having to make lists for everything that she used to just remember automatically. It can be a rude awakening if you’re not used to it.
  • You can’t remember why you came into this room. Forgetfulness isn’t just for senior citizens. Mom-to-be Liz says that she’s caught herself a few times during her pregnancy going upstairs for something and as soon as she reaches the top step, she forgets why she went in the first place.
  • You call your partner, and your mom picks up. I’ve had times when I swear I called my husband, but then, to my surprise, my mom answered. I guess somewhere between dialing and pick-up, my brain forgot who I called.
  • Your life becomes a scavenger hunt. Lots of people lose track of their keys, but not too many people eventually find them chilling in the fridge. I’m just one of the lucky ones, I guess. Liz said she has also found some things where she wasn’t expecting them and lost things where she was expecting them. She occasionally opens a kitchen drawer for a fork and realizes it’s not the silverware drawer.
  • You forget how technology works. I had to laugh when a friend told me that she repeatedly tried and failed to open her front door with her car key fob.
  • You go on autopilot and wind up far from your destination. Liz had an embarrassing moment when she took her friend to pick up her car from the shop. “I started driving there and she was asking, ‘Why are you going this way?’ and I just thought, ‘This is how to get to your shop.’ Finally, she was like, ‘That’s not where my car is.’ and I realized I had assumed and didn’t ask her. I was just so sure.” 
  • You start to think you might have soap opera amnesia. I made an appointment when I was pregnant to get an important (and uncomfortable) vaccination. When the nurse came in, they said I had already gotten the vaccine earlier in my pregnancy. I had no memory of it. When I got home and told my husband, he said he remembered that I had gotten it and that my arm had been sore for a couple of days. I still couldn’t recall it happening. So strange.
  • You need a reminder to remind your reminder. Liz says, “There are definitely times when I’ll think ‘I need to remind my husband to tell me to do this thing so I don’t forget’ and then I completely forget what I was going to tell him to remind me.”

 

The good news is…

  • You’re not alone. While scientific literature is inconclusive about pregnancy brain, it is very commonly reported among pregnant women. Thankfully, we live in a time when people are much more open about what pregnancy is actually like, so women don’t have to feel isolated in experiencing pregnancy brain. It can be a shared experience.
  • You can ask for help. At work, I have found it helpful to be open with my co-workers about what glitches I am experiencing and lean on their strengths to help me focus on my most important work. If I slip up, I own it, make it right, and move on. At home, moms Liz and Meghan have found it helpful to rely on their spouses to fill in the gaps in their memories. Liz says, “I really will say to him ‘I need you to tell me to do this because I’m worried if I don’t tell you, I’ll completely forget.’ He’ll text or email me to remind me.”
  • Most people are very forgiving of pregnant women. The thing is, people cut you more slack when you’re pregnant. They know you have a lot going on and that you’re processing a lot of changes at once. Give yourself the same grace that others give you.
  • You can try some new strategies to compensate. Each mom and each pregnancy is different, so use the strategies that work best for you. I relied heavily on my calendar. If I didn’t write it on the calendar, it didn’t happen. Meghan wrote lists for everything, not just the big stuff. Liz says she asks her doctor questions as soon as she thinks of them, even if the answer is something she doesn’t need to know until months later. That way, she won’t forget to ask when it’s relevant.
  • A sense of humor helps. Being able to laugh at my pregnancy brain helps me give myself a break. I can call my brain glitches what they are and not judge myself for experiencing them. I hope you can do the same.

Child Psychology

Child Psychologist; Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine