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, itís also about mum (and of course dad but Iím 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 doesnít 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 doesnít have that anymore.

A simple but easy rule to follow has to be Ďsleep when baby sleepsí! 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 secondlyÖmake 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 wasnít 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 mumís now that someone needs to say HEY SLOW DOWN! Its ok to cuddle your baby, its ok to rest, its ok if your house isnít 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 ďbabymoonĒ, but much like a honeymoon for newlyweds, the fourth trimester shouldnít 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 donít bond with my baby? What if I am finding caring for my baby difficult? What if I canít breastfeed? New mumís 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 donít know that itís 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 wonít 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 babyís 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 Ďold lifeí especially if this is her first baby, it can feel like you are losing your identity. Time for yourself is important. You arenít 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 itís almost a crime that women donít 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
one!

Rachael Velvick, Postnatal Doula
www.facebook.com/rachaelvelvickpostnataldoula 



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