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Video: Do you suffer from ‘momnesia’?

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TODAY contributor
updated 3/6/2008 10:57:48 AM ET 2008-03-06T15:57:48

There’s probably not a new mother alive who can’t identify and share a smile with Andi Silverman’s stories of memory lapses. Like the time she went shopping and left her groceries in the store. Or when she went on vacation with her two small children and forgot the diapers.

With two toddler sons, Nate, 3, and Teddy, 2, commanding her total attention, this kind of forgetfulness is to be expected, say medical experts. They even have a name for it — “momnesia.”

“It’s a state of the female brain that is a bit forgetful after she’s had a baby,” Dr. Louann Brizendine told TODAY correspondent Savannah Guthrie.

The author of the book “The Female Brain,” Brizendine said that the condition is brought on by the wildly fluctuating flood of hormones that accompanies pregnancy, childbirth and breast-feeding.

“It alters brain chemistry,” she said. “All these hormones are in a stew in the brain that are changing the way a mother focuses.”

Hannah Keeley, a parenting expert who runs the Web site totalmom.com, watched Guthrie’s taped report with TODAY’s Hoda Kotb on Thursday and laughed in sympathy. As the mother of seven children ranging in age from 2 to 14, Keeley knows the syndrome all too well.

“It’s insane,” she said. “You’re in the car, you’re going to the grocery store, you forget — ‘What am I going for?’ Meanwhile, your coffee flew off the hood of the car a mile back. All the time you just feel like you’re scattered everywhere. We went on vacation — I forgot to pack for my baby.”

Then there was the time she and her husband went out with several other couples for an adult dinner without the kids, and she found herself cutting her husband’s grilled chicken into dozens of tiny little pieces because that’s what a mom does.

Keeley, who’s written a book entitled “Hannah Keeley’s Total Mom Makeover,” divides her life into two eras: BC for “Before Children” and AD for “After Dementia.”

She laughs easily about her own momnesia while explaining that mothers are so focused on their children that other things simply get lost.

“It’s like a pie of attention,” she told Kotb. “We have so many resources we can spend for things. When you divide that pie — here’s a slice for breast-feeding, here’s a slice for packing the diaper bag, going to the doctor, making sure the milestones are met — the common, ordinary things get pushed to the wayside.”

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The good news, she said, is that there are ways to cope with momnesia.

“You dip after you have this child in your functioning ability,” she said. “But you start to develop strategies to help you become more efficient. You write everything down. We have this huge calendar — the largest we could find — where we write down everything.”

When she’s away from home, she always carries a pen — her husband gave her one on a necklace — and paper to take notes.

The second step she advises new mothers to do is simply accept that they can’t do everything and scale back their responsibilities. That means fighting off the “mommy guilt” that mothers often feel when they can’t be Superwoman, she said.

Finally, she said, mothers should find the time to exercise daily.

“There’s a study with older people who are forgetting things, and they found that cardiovascular exercise actually helps in maintaining attention to things,” she told Kotb. “It also helps as a new mom — you have a better body image.”

And it never hurts to laugh.

As Silverman said, “It’s pretty funny if you can keep everything in perspective.”

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