There’s a lot of talk about how to deal with the first three trimesters of pregnancy, but not so much about the fourth trimester. The fourth trimester is just as important for a mother’s health as the first three trimesters and perhaps the most mentally and physically taxing. Not only are you recovering from giving birth, you’re also adjusting to your new life with a baby. There’s a lot of changes to get used to and although it’s a wonderful time, it can also be very overwhelming. To help you navigate this chapter, we’ve put together some tips and hacks to help you survive the fourth trimester.
What is the Fourth Trimester?
The fourth trimester is the 12-week period immediately after you give birth. It’s a time of physical and emotional change as your baby gets used to being outside of the womb and you get used to being a new mom. Your baby still has a lot of developing to do in their first three months, from building neck strength to developing their senses and learning how to respond to you and your partner. It’s a time where they’re getting used to new sounds, lights, smells, noises and sensations in the outside world. They’ll do a lot of crying, sleeping and feeding during this time while they work on their physical development.
For the mom, the fourth trimester is a time for recovering from child birth, while also transitioning to your new life as a mom. This can be a magical time, but also a time full of emotions, overwhelm and extreme fatigue. It’s important to try to take care of yourself during this time, while you’re caring for your baby. Babies are so fragile when they’re just born. It’s demanding to care for a baby during the first few months of their life, on top of the physical and emotional recovery you’re going through yourself.
What Happens During the Fourth Trimester?
The fourth trimester is a time of significant physical, mental and emotional growth for your baby. By three months, your baby will often be calmer, happier and more alert. They’ll likely be able to hold their help up to some degree and be more aware of the world around them. But before that, they’re still very much developing.
For moms, you’re recovering from giving birth, your hormones are changing, your organs are shifting back to their former positions and your breast milk is coming in. It will take time for your body to look and feel normal again after being pregnant for nine months and giving birth. And if you’re breastfeeding, you may not feel completely back to your old self until you’ve weaned.
You’ll experience fatigue and emotional ups and downs that come with life with your new baby. You may be missing aspects of your life you had before you had a baby and that’s totally normal. Intense mood swings, sadness and crying are all typical after giving birth and it’s important not to beat yourself up for feeling this way.
While the baby blues are normal for a few weeks after you give birth, feeling chronically sad, depressed, or having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby can be signs of postpartum depression (PPD). If you think you may be suffering from PPD, please reach out to your doctor for help.
In the fourth trimester, when you’re recovering from childbirth you may experience symptoms such as:
- Healing of wounds
- Postpartum bleeding
- Hormones and emotional changes
- Organs shifting back to their original positions
- Breast milk coming in
How to Survive During the Fourth Trimester
1. Be Prepared
There’s always so much focus on making sure you get the baby what it needs when it arrives, so you’re sure to be stocked up on clothes, diapers and other necessities. But also make sure to think about all the supplies you’ll need as well. Consider products like belly cream, nipple cream, menstrual pads/adult diapers, nursing pads, loose, comfy clothes, sitz bath soaks and a feeding pillow. All of these things will make your fourth trimester a lot easier.
2. Ask for Help
Giving birth and taking care of a new baby is a lot to go through. Don’t be scared to ask for help and seek support from friends and loved ones, as well as your doctor and obstetric team. Talk to the team as early as you can to see what help they can offer in the fourth trimester and create an individualized postpartum plan to support you while you heal. Remember to take into consideration any physical or mental conditions you may have.
3. Find a Group for New Moms
It’s important to talk with other moms who get what you’re going through. Even if your partner, family and friends are supportive, it can sometimes feel lonely to feel like you’re the only one who gets it. Ask your paediatrician or OB/GYN to recommend support groups, look for local groups on Facebook or reach out to friends who have children to ask if they know of anything. Having other new mom/parent friends is important during this transitional time.
4. Eat Right
Try to nourish your body as much as you can during the fourth trimester. A healthy diet and proper nutrition can help your postpartum body heal. Eat foods high in tryptophan and B6 like eggs, salmon, cheese, tofu, nuts and seeds and turkey. These foods can help boost your serotonin levels, improving your mood. Eat lots of fibre and drink lots of water to help with digestion and prevent hemorrhoids. And make sure to eat enough protein and iron to make up for any blood lost during pregnancy.
5. Rest as Much as Possible
You may find it next to impossible to get quality sleep during the fourth trimester, especially since newborn babies need to eat every two to three hours, but try to sleep and rest when you can. The more sleep you get, the better your mood will be and the faster your body will heal. Try to sleep when your baby sleeps and resist the urge to clean and tidy up during this time.
6. Take Advantage of Experts
There are a number of specialists you may consider seeing your fourth trimester to help you heal. Your pelvic floor and core will need to go through a lot of strengthening and healing. Consider seeing a pelvic floor therapist to teach you the techniques and exercises you can use to strengthen that area. You may also consider seeing a lactation specialist if you’re having problems with breastfeeding, or talking to a therapist if your mental health is struggling.
The fourth trimester can be tough, but you’re not alone. Try these tips to help you get through this period more easily.
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