Looking after yourself in the fourth trimester

Posted on 05/03/2019 by Antenatal Online | Leave a Comment

So you now know all about the fourth trimester and why it's so important for your baby but hang on! It's not just about your new arrival, it’s also about mum (and of course dad but I’m concentrating on mum!) The physical and emotional changes are real, and mum needs just as much love and support as baby does. Your life is different, your body is different, you now have a tiny person to care for and sometimes no idea how to do it. Has anyone shown you how to change a nappy? How to bath baby? How to dress baby? How to feed baby? Has anyone told you to make sure you rest? Or to eat nutritious food? To drink plenty?  To not sweat the un-important stuff? To make sure you have someone to talk to? 

Some mums have what is known as a birth debrief, the birth of your baby is something that could shape your fourth trimester experience. Birth doesn’t always go how we planned so having a debrief can be a way to go through all the information and can give mums a much better understanding of why certain events would have taken place during the birth of their baby. There are also so many things that no one prepared you for during the postnatal time - how your vagina feels like its keen kicked by a horse, or that you will bleed heavily for quite a while, your pelvic floor will need some attention! your boobs will feel all kinds of strange, you may need to care for a c-section scar oh and you might get piles!!

Rest is so important after the birth of a baby yet its something that seems quickly forgotten about, our western society has over the years increased the pressures on mum to get back to normal as quickly as possible, some cultures still practice laying in periods for up to 60 days so that mum is cared for in such a way that she can regain her strength, focus on bonding with and feeding baby. Mum is cared for by her family and in many cultures the wider community and sadly the western world just doesn’t have that anymore.

A simple but easy rule to follow has to be ‘sleep when baby sleeps’! and seeing as though baby has no concept of day or night mum has got to catch up with her sleep where ever she can grab it!! First write a list of priorities so that when you are up to it you can slowly make a start on the most important things you would like to get done then secondly…make sure you are warm, comfy and relaxed, dim the lights and rest/sleep. Thirdly mum could (while baby naps) snuggle up with their older children for some quality time/rest time.

These are all things that I wasn’t given any advice on, yet I made it through but only because I have wonderful people I could rely on. There is so much pressure put on mum’s now that someone needs to say HEY SLOW DOWN! Its ok to cuddle your baby, its ok to rest, its ok if your house isn’t immaculate 2 weeks after having baby and its ok to have support during the fourth trimester. We are only human after all.

The fourth trimester is a time for mum to heal and for a new family to get to know one another. Some people call this the “babymoon”, but much like a honeymoon for newlyweds, the fourth trimester shouldn’t be about schedules or expectations.  Instead it should be about enjoyment, love, patience and wonder.

Although the fourth trimester can be a magical time it can also be hard, and this is also a part of having a baby that no one really prepares you for either. What if I don’t bond with my baby? What if I am finding caring for my baby difficult? What if I can’t breastfeed? New mum’s have so many factors to think of, so may factors to process all within such a short space of time. 

  • Talk. Make sure you talk to someone, be it your partner, midwife, mum or friend, open up, it is very likely that other mums have felt the way you are at some point during their mothering journey.
  • Skin to skin. This releases the hormone oxytocin and can make bonding a better experience.
  • Smells. Smell your baby, doing this can release the love hormone.
  • Bath with baby. Have a bath with your baby, this is another great way to encourage skin to skin and for baby to enjoying the water as well as feeling safe with mummy.
  • Believe in yourself. Trust your instincts! No one knows your baby like you do.

The Baby blues is a common part of the postnatal experience and although it occurs quite soon after birth if it not something you know about or have experienced before so it could be quite scary. Usually happening a few days after birth mums can feel incredibly emotional but have no idea why. Symptoms can include: 

  •  Irritability
  •  Exhaustion
  •  Mood swings
  •  Feeling overwhelmed
  •  Lack of concentration
  •  Change in appetite
  •  Crying

While the baby blues usually passes after a few days/weeks something that new mums should be aware of is postnatal depression. PND can affect 1 in 10 women and usually occurs 3 weeks from birth. Many women tend to not say how they are feeling through fear of judgement, but most women don’t know that it’s fairly common. It is very important for mum to speak to someone so that she can receive the right treatment to be able to get the best out of the postnatal experience with her baby as she can. A few things mum could try is some gentle exercise, breathing techniques, listening to your favourite music or going out for short periods. Of course, these ideas alone won’t make mum feel instantly better but combined with talking therapies or even medication mum will gradually feel more like herself.

Because there is so much to think about during the fourth trimester and new parents themselves are still adapting to their new life with a baby, whilst trying to support each other. Both parents are tired, lacking in energy and feeling overwhelmed, it can be easy to put your relationship last on your list of priorities (I certainly know I did), so make sure you talk to each other, help each other, let your partner have some bonding time with baby and try to make time for each other. As parents you are on this journey together and a little effort can go a long way.

During the fourth trimester it can be so easy for mum to feel not quite like herself and because mum is baby’s main caregiver its easy for your life to feel repetitive and sometimes slightly boring! Mum has stopped working and is missing the adult interaction and her ‘old life’ especially if this is her first baby, it can feel like you are losing your identity. Time for yourself is important. You aren’t just a mum. You are still you!

So, when you are ready, plan some nights out with friends, go to an exercise class or something you enjoy, read for fun, cook for fun and treat yourself occasionally. BE YOU!

I feel the fourth trimester and postnatal doulas are so linked that it’s almost a crime that women don’t have the option for a postnatal doula from the moment their baby is born. Even with the support I received I still of course could have had more and if I had known what a postnatal doula was when I had my children, I definitely would have had

Rachael Velvick, Postnatal Doula



The fourth trimester

Posted on 01/02/2019 by Antenatal Online | Leave a Comment

The fourth trimester if I’m honest is something I hadn’t heard of until recently and having asked some close family and friends found that they hadn’t either although this is not a new thing! It is not the latest craze or something we do for fun, it is real part of pregnancy, birth and beyond, yet why is there so little information and help out there?

When I knew I wanted to pursue a career being a postnatal doula it was suddenly something I was thinking a lot about and more importantly why did I seem to know so little about it? And why hadn’t my own midwife given me any information about it?


Having had two children of my own I have certainly experienced the fourth trimester but had not had it put to me in such a way that I thought about how the fourth trimester would pan out for me, what would it be like? How would I know what to do with my new baby? What help is available for me if I struggled? What food or drink is best for regaining my strength? Who will support me mentally? Who will support me physically? And with my second child how would I cope with a toddler and a new born?


I am a lucky lady, I have an amazing family and husband that supported me throughout both of my postnatal experiences mentally, physically and emotionally. One of the best things my nan told me was to get to know each of my baby’s cues, their likes/dislikes and their little personalities so that I knew the best way to help or soothe them and of course I wasn’t always right but that’s how we learn.

This is the reason I feel so passionate about supporting other women/babies/families during the postnatal period.


The fourth trimester starts when your baby is born and continues until she is about 3 months old. It is called the fourth trimester because it is a time of change not only for you and your life but for baby and her development and the changes that take place for you and your baby now she is in the outside world!

Your new baby learns and changes so much during this time and because your new baby relies solely on you for care, attention and love it makes this time very important.

The fourth trimester is a time where your baby must get used to the new noises, lights, smells and sounds of the world. Going from mum’s cosy womb, to a noisy, bright and cold world and this is a massive change for baby.

Once baby is born her senses are quite limited and are still developing. Baby has sight but it is all blurry. She can hear, but it’s hard for baby to make out certain sounds or voices. She can feel, but the lovely, snug and warm comfort of your womb is now a big scary open space.


During the fourth trimester your baby will cry a lot! sleep a lot! And feed a lot! But at the same time your baby’s senses and physical development are coming on in leaps and bounds! Your baby's brain is like a sponge, soaking up everything that happens to him/her. The more baby’s brain is stimulated, the better the connections in baby’s brain will become.

New babies love to be held and cuddled, they love the sounds and movement that comes with growing inside you for 9 months and they are so used to being snug and warm inside the womb.


Outside of the womb you can try these to comfort your baby:

  • Skin to skin: This helps to calm and soothe your baby. She will be reassured by your warmth, your voice and your smell, and the sound of your heartbeat helps to regulate baby’s too. Skin-to-skin also encourages your baby to latch on for breastfeeding. It can also give dad a chance to bond too.
  • Feeding on demand: Giving your baby nourishment whenever she needs it, whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, helps baby to have her energy needs met and lets baby know that she is well looked after.
  • Babywearing: Using a sling helps to create the movement and cosy comfort that your baby felt in your womb. If your baby is fussy, carrying her across your chest may soothe, as she hears your heartbeat.
  • Swaddling: Safe swaddling gives a feeling of containment, just like in your womb. It may help your baby to sleep better and soothe her if she's been crying.
  • Swinging and movement: Walking around while holding your baby may be more soothing. In your womb she was gently rocked by your movements. Creating this swaying and rocking may help to comfort your baby if she is crying.

And the fourth trimester isn't just about baby! Next time on the blog I'll tell you how to look after yourself in the weeks after you give birth.


Rachael Velvick, Postnatal Doula



Is social media making you miserable?

Posted on 25/06/2018 by Antenatal Online | Leave a Comment

Does linking up with other mothers and fathers on Facebook and Instagram make us happier? The answer it would seem is not. A survey by the Priory Group, the mental healthcare specialists, found that as many as half of parents think that social media sites like Instagram and Facebook create unrealistic and unattainable expectations of family life which fuel anxiety and can trigger depression.


More than one in five parents - 22% - said that happy family pictures posted on Instagram, or exuberant baby blog posts on Facebook and other sites, made them feel “inadequate” - while a similar number, 23%, said it made them feel “depressed”.


And they didn’t think they were alone.


Nearly 40% said they thought idealised images of parenthood – and “over-sharenting” - were fuelling anxiety among new parents, while more than a third (36%) said they thought that baby bloggers and “Instamums” were contributing to rising rates of depression


Instead of creating a friendly “online community”, more than one in 10 of those asked said that rather than feeling more connected to other mothers, such sites could make new parents feel more isolated.


While the desire to share the joy of a new-born baby is nothing new, social media platforms have taken proud parenting to a new level, with “baby boasting”, “parenting wins” and “mummy-goals” becoming as much part of the daily routine as breastfeeding and nappy-changes.


From the positive pregnancy test, to the gender reveal, the baby shower and even labour, every aspect of a child’s early days is now shared online. Previously, these important announcements would have been shared with a close family network, but they are now broadcast to followers and “friends” across the globe.  


There are, of course, clear benefits to “being social” – particularly for mothers without a close network to hand. Social media can be reassuring for new parents who turn to their online community for advice on anything from health, relationships, “best buys” and general parenting techniques.


However, for others, endlessly “perfect” posts can have the reverse effect, generating feelings of not measuring up, even though they know that continuous boasting, and glossing over the less positive moments in life, is disingenuous and fake.

Dr Lucinda Green, Priory Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist at Priory’s Harley Street Wellbeing Centre, and expert in the mental health of women during pregnancy and up to one year after birth, says; 

“These findings are very concerning, but sadly not surprising. Around 1 in 5 women have mental health problems during pregnancy or in the first year after birth. Depression and anxiety are common, but women can experience a wide range of mental health problems at this important time in their lives. There are many factors which contribute and these unrealistic representations of motherhood on social media definitely do not help.

“Women who criticise themselves, or assume others will judge them, for failing to be the perfect mother they aspire to be, are at increased risk of postnatal depression. When social media projects idealised images of parenthood as the norm, it’s easy for new parents to feel guilty or inadequate if their experience does not match this.”

Dr Green adds; “Previous surveys, such as Maternal Mental Health – Women’s Voices (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists) have identified the pressure to enjoy motherhood as a reason for women feeling isolated and guilty for not being happy and finding parenting hard. Women highlighted the importance of having a realistic picture of motherhood and an acceptance that it is experienced differently by different women. Being a new parent can be tough. Most new parents find it overwhelming, exhausting and stressful at times.”


The Duchess of Cambridge (and mental health ambassador) has also spoken about the pressures of motherhood, saying: “Some of this fear is about the pressure to be a perfect parent; pretending we're all coping perfectly and loving every minute of it. It's right to talk about motherhood as a wonderful thing, but we also need to talk about its stresses and strains."


Dr Green says; “Over half of women with mental health problems in pregnancy or after birth are not identified. Even fewer have the evidence-based treatments they need. Women’s sense of shame, embarrassment and failure at being perceived as not coping as a mother is a significant reason for their reluctance to disclose symptoms of depression or anxiety. Pictures of apparently ‘perfect parents’ on social media can reinforce this. However, it’s crucial that women have treatment for mental health problems in pregnancy or after birth - the impact of untreated illness is longstanding for women, partners and children.

Here, Dr Green outlines her guidance to help parents take a breather from social media and help with mental health:

  • Have the courage to unfollow or unfriend: Hitting the unfollow button on a ‘friend’s’ Instagram or Facebook account can be a huge relief. Unfollowing celebrity mums or “insta-mums” will protect you from constantly comparing yourself to them.
  • Remember that your mental health is as important as your physical health in pregnancy and after birth. Make a plan as early as possible to ensure you have support for your emotional wellbeing. One good way to do this is to use the Tommy’s charity “Pregnancy & Post-Birth Wellbeing Plan” which you can download from www.tommys.org.uk
  • If you’ve had mental health problems previously, or if you have current symptoms, talk to your midwife, GP or health visitor. They will know about help and support in your area. Getting help early means you have a chance to prevent illness, or at least to have treatment before problems become too serious.
  • Look after yourself: eat healthily, exercise and avoid alcohol. It can be hard to find time for yourself as a parent but take any opportunity to relax or have a break.
  • Let others help - accept offers of help from family and friends to cook or look after children for you.
  • Talk to someone you trust. This may be your partner, a relative or friend, or it could be your GP, midwife or health visitor. It really can help to open up about how you feel. It’s good to talk to someone you know and not just rely on online communities.

Dr Green adds; “If you want to spend time online, use apps and websites that will help you as a parent. It’s important that we don’t dismiss all social media. Findings from surveys of women, such as ‘Falling Through the Gaps’ (Centre for Mental Health) and ‘Maternal Mental Health – Women’s Voices’, have identified the significant support women with mental health problems experience through specific websites, apps and other forms of social media.”

  • Apps and websites such as “Mush” (www.letsmush.com) and Netmums (www.netmums.com) help you connect with other mums so that you can share the ups and downs of parenting and avoid being isolated.
  • Netmums offers parent supporters and a free online “helping with depressioncourse” based on cognitive behavioural therapy.
  • Websites for charities such as PANDAS Foundation, Maternal OCD and Action on Postpartum Psychosis offer information and support about specific mental health problems. Online forums can link you to other parents with similar problems.
  • Twitter support groups, such as #PNDHour, are invaluable for women and partners to link up with others experiencing similar difficulties.
  • High quality information about various mental health problems during and after pregnancy is available on The Royal College of Psychiatrists Health Advice website and App, and the Tommy’s website. The Baby Buddy App gives has informative video clips.


If you need further help consider:

  • Self-referral to your local IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies). These services offer free talking therapies and usually give priority to women during pregnancy and in the first year after birth. You can often take your baby to the appointment. Dads can access IAPT too.
  • Depending on the severity of your mental health problems, you could be referred to a Perinatal Mental Health Service – ask your GP if there is one near you.
  • The Priory Group, the mental healthcare specialists, have Wellbeing Centres for outpatients, and hospitals which can help mothers – and partners – with a range of mental health problems. The Priory Wellbeing Centre in Harley Street has a specialist Parenthood, Pregnancy & Family Life service. Women and partners can be seen from when they start to plan a pregnancy, during pregnancy and any time after birth. Experts offer a range of psychological therapies, including parent-infant, couple and family therapy. Women can also have specialist advice about using medication in pregnancy and breastfeeding. The aim is to help women stay as well as possible and enjoy family life.






Yoga or you-time? Looking after your mental health in pregnancy

Posted on 31/01/2018 by Antenatal Online | Leave a Comment


We all know the importance of staying physically healthy in pregnancy. We know for example that you don’t need an additional donut for the baby, that sadly yes you can still go running and that resting for 9 months is for some reason frowned upon. In addition to looking after our physical wellbeing during pregnancy however, we are increasingly hearing that our mental health is just as important.


Most women will notice emotional changes during pregnancy - I for one threw a mug at my husband’s head in a pregnant rage and it is only because I’m an appalling shot that he lived to tell the tale. Some mums-to-be however don’t just experience the normal hormonal highs and lows. Pregnancy is a time that prenatal anxiety or depression can develop.


There are however steps you can take to help you have a good emotional experience during pregnancy. Here Claire from Birth Story Listeners gives us her tips for protecting your mental health whilst growing your human:


Get connected: They used to say it takes a village to raise a child and while our notion of a village has changed, the sentiment remains the same. These days with many of us living away from our families our village may include our partner, friends, those we meet while pregnant at groups and on social media and medical professionals. It is important to gather your village around you before you give birth – we aren’t designed to do this alone.


Be aware of your expectations: It’s great to have high expectations of your care givers and for your labour and birth and it’s good to spend time thinking about your birth preferences. A birth plan can help you get informed about your birth choices and help you feel more in control. But birth can be unpredictable and there are times that things may not turn out exactly as you planned. That doesn’t mean you can’t still have a positive experience but it might help to think in advance how you would cope and what your wishes would be if your plans had to change e.g. if you plan a home birth but have to be transferred to hospital.


Work out what’s normal for you: If you understand what is normal for you in terms of your mental health and how you deal with stress then you are more likely to spot early signs of antenatal depression and to be able to get help. Seek advice and support early if you have a pre-existing mental health condition. Similarly seek advice if you are already taking anti-depressants and don’t stop unless you are advised to by your GP.


Be kind to yourself: Some women experience symptoms of depression when they aren’t able to live up to their own expectation about their pregnancy or birth, about feeding their baby or how they feel after said baby arrives. Having a baby is a life changing experience. Be kind to yourself and try to have realistic expectations of what your life as a mum will be like.


Talk to your partner: It really does help to spend some time talking to your partner about your worries and fears and to find out if they have any! How does your partner react to seeing you in pain ordinarily? How do they deal with stress? Do you like to be fussed over when you are in pain or left alone? Are you direct in asking for what you want or do you expect your partner to just know what you need? Will your partner feel comfortable speaking up for what you want in labour? How will they cope if they feel they can’t solve a problem or find a role? All these things are worth discussing before you give birth.


Take positive steps: Eat well, sleep well, see friends, join antenatal groups, plan fun activities, sort out financial or relationship issues before the baby arrives instead of putting things off and learn to say no if necessary.


Most importantly of all, if you find you are anxious, fearful and down, don’t suffer in silence, speak to your midwife.


Birth Story Listeners run a local peer support group in North Wales to support women who have had a difficult time in childbirth. Find out more at https://www.facebook.com/groups/birthstorylisteners/



Mum-to-be? 5 things you need to know

Posted on 16/11/2017 by Antenatal Online | Leave a Comment

I have been a mum for almost 10 years which is scary because it feels like approximately 10 minutes. Far scarier however is the fact that I still have no clue what I am on with. When you have a baby you have a firm belief that it is the hardest thing in the world. Why won’t she sleep? Is she eating enough? For the love of God, how do I know I am doing this right? When you have a 9 year old you realise that unfortunately that was the easy bit and it is over. Contemplating a teenage version actually brings me out in hives.


The wiser among you probably have already worked out that there is no `right’ and are happy bumbling along and doing your best. You can stop reading and go and pointlessly shuffle some toys from one room to another in the name of tidying. For those who are a bit slower on the uptake, I give you some tips on the five things you should probably avoid lest you are driven insane:


  • Do not Google ANYTHING: For every expert who instructs you to lock your child in their bedroom as soon as the clock strikes 6.30pm and to not return even if they scream until they vomit, there will be another who says you should co-sleep until they are 10. Last night my youngest suggested he had a pain in his leg – 3 hours later I had diagnosed him with leukaemia. Everyone has an opinion and they are all conflicting. Save yourself a world of pain and step away from the search engine.
  • Keep your lies simple: In the early seventies I am absolutely convinced that Santa was responsible for all items delivered so why should 2009 be any different? That was an error. Raised eyebrows from child free disgruntled relatives who don’t get a thank you because the kids firmly believe that Santa got them that overpriced scooter anyone? And how do we return the roller skates that the silly man sent 4 sizes too small? I urge you to keep it simple. He brings the stockings. That is all. And similarly with the tooth fairy. How cute I thought it was to craft a little note from said fairy. But bloody Amber’s mother didn’t write her a note. Damn her. Cue endless questions about why the tooth fairy doesn’t like Amber.
  • Breastfeeding? Quick, give them a bottle: I loved breastfeeding but it is quite a responsibility being the one in charge of keeping them alive. Now truth be told, I am not big on going out - pyjamas and Doc Martin on Catch Up are more my scene but I did have tickets to see Tiffany off the telly in My Fair Lady. I was quite looking forward to it. I had expressed and given Evie a bottle early on but then, to be honest, I just didn’t bother. I was pretty sure she had mastered that whole bottle thing and expressing made me feel like an unattractive cow. Imagine my horror when she turned her tiny nose up at the bottle I proffered and screamed her lungs out. Alas, I had missed `the window’. I missed Tiff and then there was no escape. The bottle was permanently rejected. If you don’t want to be in sole charge, don’t make my mistake. Regularly offer your milk in a bottle.
  • Lower your sleep expectations: At the first meet up of our antenatal group post baby, we were alarmed by one of our number going round the table demanding, wild eyed, to know whether our babies were sleeping through the night. Sleep deprived she most certainly was but it was clear that she was feeling that either her or the baby were failing. Babies are supposed to sleep through the night right? Wrong. They are not. My eldest did at twelve weeks but my youngest didn’t manage it until he was nearly five. No one would say that it isn’t hard but you have not failed and your baby is not playing you up. He just needs you. It may feel like an age when you are a sleep deprived zombie but trust me, it will pass. 
  • Buy five identical soft toys: You haven’t known heartbreak until your child has lost the mangled filthy piece of cloth formally recognisable as a monkey. Monkey had several lucky escapes. We once found him perched in the broccoli at Morrisons. Another time a member of staff took pity on us and posted him back from the Sea Life Centre. Alas like the proverbial cat he ran out of lives and is no more. Save yourself. Buy five monkeys.
I trust the 5 things I have learnt in ten years will be of use to you. Go with your gut, know there is no such thing as perfect and try and enjoy every precious minute. Ten years will go by in the blink of an eye.



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