The fourth trimester is a term often used to describe the first three months after a baby is born. Referring to this period as the fourth trimester acknowledges that newborns are still undergoing significant developments, similar to the three prenatal trimesters. Babies in the fourth trimester continue to rely heavily on their parents or caregivers for comfort, feeding, and care as they adjust to life outside the womb.
The fourth trimester can be challenging for new mothers as they navigate the physical, emotional, and lifestyle adjustments that come with a newborn. It is also the time when your baby is most likely to have colic.
Relieve Work Stress in Advance
Work-related stress is the last thing you need when you’re adjusting to life as a new mom. During your pregnancy, make preparations at work so you can give your new baby your undivided attention. If you’re self-employed, be sure to inform your clients and customers of your absence well in advance. You may also want to hire a virtual assistant to keep things running smoothly while you’re out of the office. This will take some pressure off and ensure you feel okay about stepping away from your business for a little while.
Be Prepared for Common Physical Challenges
New moms face a range of challenges as they recover from childbirth and adjust to life with a new baby. For example, women may experience postpartum pain, soreness, perineal tears, hemorrhoids, cracked nipples, and other unpleasant physical changes after giving birth. These discomforts can impact your daily activities and mobility, making it difficult to care for a newborn. Go easy on yourself and give your body time to heal. Try various pain management techniques, such as cold or warm packs, sitz baths, and topical creams or sprays. Once you receive clearance from your healthcare provider, engaging in gentle exercises and stretching can help improve blood circulation, promote healing, and relieve muscle tension.
Acknowledge Normal Hormonal Changes
Women experience significant hormonal changes during the postpartum period. After giving birth, estrogen and progesterone levels drop rapidly, which can contribute to feelings of sadness or the “baby blues”. At the same time, the stress hormone, cortisol, increases during pregnancy and remains high following delivery, which can further impact mood and energy levels. You may also experience changes to your thyroid hormone levels and melatonin levels, both of which contribute to sleep disturbances, fatigue, and mood changes. It’s important to acknowledge that due to these hormonal changes, experiencing mood swings, fatigue, or other emotional changes is normal during the postpartum period.
Make a Plan to Limit Sleep Deprivation
Dealing with sleep deprivation can be particularly challenging for new moms, especially when their newborns have colic. While you may not be able to completely avoid sleep deprivation during this period, you can take steps to limit its impact. For example, try to establish a system with your partner or a trusted caregiver to share nighttime responsibilities so you can get some uninterrupted sleep. You may also want to adjust your sleep schedule to accommodate your baby's colic episodes. If your baby tends to be more colicky during certain hours, try to get some sleep in advance or go to bed earlier to compensate.
Get Help with Breastfeeding Challenges
Breastfeeding is rarely easy. As TheBump.com explains, several obstacles may throw roadblocks in your breastfeeding journey. For example, many women experience latching pain, cracked nipples, clogged ducts, and engorgement. Consult a lactation consultant about these concerns so you can work together to find solutions that work for you!
Navigating the fourth trimester as a new mom can be both an exciting and difficult experience. Understanding the physical changes, hormonal fluctuations, and sleep deprivation that often accompany this period is essential for seeking support and implementing strategies to ease the transition. By preparing to take time off work in advance and seeking help from people in your support network, you can navigate the fourth trimester with greater ease and confidence.
Thank you to Katherine Williams for contributing this article!