Because I feel that, in the Heavens above
The angels, whispering to one another,
Can find, among their burning terms of love
None so devotional as that of ‘Mother’”
– Edgar Allen Poe
If you have experienced pregnancy then you know it is broken up into three trimesters to make up the nine months of pregnancy before the baby is born. So what is the fourth trimester?
What is the fourth trimester?
The fourth trimester is the first three months following the birth of your baby and it is considered one of the hardest three months of parenting. Compared to other species in the animal kingdom, human babies are born unprepared for their surroundings, this means their survival falls solely on their carer.
During this time, your infant can be unsettled as they adapt to their new life outside the protected, warm and squishy womb. All your time, focus and energy goes into your new bundle of joy as you help them settle into their new world.
For new parents this is a time of great change and overwhelm that you can never really prepare for. As you focus on your new baby it is easy to forget your own needs as a mother or father, however self-care is still essential; even more so for a mother recovering from birth.
As a new mother, you are adjusting to sleep deprivation, hormonal changes, birth recovery and breastfeeding; bringing with it challenges to your physical, mental and emotional health.
We no longer have a village
In times gone by, new parents had a whole community to help them through this transition; in modern life that village is fading. Women feel they must do everything themselves and do it well or else they are failing.
Prior to having a baby you were accustomed to being in control, competent and independent and a new baby throws all of this upside down.
Whilst it is easy to fall into the new baby bubble of nappy changes, round the clock feeding and lack of sleep it is also imperative that you do not forget yourself or suffer in silence.
How can you support yourself in the fourth trimester?
- Ask for help – many new parents feel they can’t ask for help or are failing if they do. If somebody offers help, take it! Even if it’s a free meal, help cleaning the house, folding the washing or picking up some groceries.
- Nutrition – this is an easy one to let slip. Some good options are healthy meal delivery services (not takeout pizza), taking time before the baby comes to organise pre-cooked meals or asking friends & family to cook. A great snack idea is a mezze style plate with crackers, dips, avocado, salmon and vegetables. Lactation biscuits also make a tasty snack high in nutrients.
- Stay hydrated – particularly if you are breastfeeding. Again this is easy to let slip. Keep a bottle or jug of water close by at all times. Set reminders to drink throughout the day.
- Utilise resources in your area – there are many resources available to new parents, including breastfeeding support, post-birth midwife checks, GP support, pharmacy drop-in baby clinics, 24-hour phone services, local mother’s groups and playgroups.
- Set expectations for visitors – family and friends are eager to see you and your new baby. It’s nice to revel in that attention but, if it is causing you anxiety to keep a tidy house or entertain guests, then set your expectations. Ask them to bring food or fold some washing whilst visiting. Let them know you are spending your time doting on your newborn rather than cleaning your house. If you aren’t ready for guests yet, then tell them you don’t want visitors until you’re settled.
- Herbal medicine – there are some wonderful herbs for post-birth nourishment. We love withania, fennel, chamomile, shatavari, vervain, nettle and lemon balm. If you are breastfeeding, always check with a qualified professional before taking any herbal medicine.
- Prepare yourself – read up on changes to expect post-partum and arm yourself with knowledge. What you may experience in the fourth trimester is common and completely normal, however, it also should not be ignored.
- Focus on health – we are bombarded with images of celebrities getting their pre-baby bodies back within weeks of giving birth and this can add pressure to lose weight quickly after giving birth. It is more important to focus on your health than to take drastic measures to lose weight. While you may have new mum body insecurities, try to remember the amazing things your body has done.