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What Is the 4th Trimester?

January 11, 2021


You thought you knew what you were getting into when you were pregnant. But as you probably found out when you went to your first doctor’s appointment, started talking to friends, reading baby books and searching the internet - what you didn’t know was a longer list than what you did.

One thing you may have been surprised to learn about? The fourth trimester - or the first three months AFTER baby is born. There’s a lot going on during this time - both for you and baby. So, by popular demand and for so many reasons, that time is now considered its own trimester.

Fourth trimester
Postpartum self-care is a critical part of caring for your baby.

The fourth trimester is a time to learn exactly what self-care is. And practice it!

It cannot be said enough. New mothers are under a tremendous amount of mental, physical and emotional stress during the fourth trimester.

During this time, it’s so important to learn what self-care is and develop various ways to keep yourself grounded and level. It’s also imperative to recognize when you should seek professional help if you suspect that you may be experiencing postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis.

Self-care is NOT selfish and is NOT about being self-centered. Self-care is about laying the groundwork for thoughts, practices and processes that affect our way of life, daily tasks, decision making and everything in between.

When a mother takes care of herself, her entire family benefits from her healthy body and mind.

The fourth trimester is about your ever-changing body.

It took nine months for your body to grow and adapt to that new life that developed inside of you. Is it fair to expect your body to be back to pre-pregnancy shape in one month? Don’t fall prey to unrealistic expectations.

From vaginal bleeding, incontinence and hemorrhoids, to varying hormone levels, perineum soreness after vaginal birth and stomach pain after a Cesarean Section (not to mention discomfort from a shrinking uterus), mothers deal with so much during the fourth trimester! And we haven’t even gotten into what breastfeeding will do to your girls.

Don’t rush. Don’t push yourself too hard. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Focus on taking care of your mental and emotional health, as well as your physical health as it relates to healing. Eventually, diet and exercise will help you reach your pre-baby weight goals, but you need to establish a good mental and physical foundation first.

The fourth trimester is a time to realize that we aren’t perfect.

What is perfection? Is it different from your life pre-baby vs. once your baby has arrived?

Oftentimes, our expectations of the perfect family or the perfect baby or the perfect mother are not realistic. These expectations weigh on us when they are not met. Does this mean you are a bad parent? No. It means that we are not perfect and neither are our spouses or children. We all have flaws. We all have good days and bad days.

Once you can open your heart to modifying just what perfection means to yourself and everyone around you, your life as a new mother can stand the test of time.

post pregnancy body
Your post pregnancy body is beautiful.

The fourth trimester is a crash course in motherhood.

When it comes to learning about motherhood, one of the only thing we can say with certainty is that all the videos, blog posts, message boards and books cannot train you for what real life experiences you’ll face with your newborn. Sorry.

It helps if you have family and friends to look up to and set examples for child care and child rearing, but even these scenarios never paint the true picture of motherhood. It’s simply learn as you go, modify as needed and expect the unexpected. You and baby are being thrown into this whole new, pressure-filled world in an instant. Most pressure is placed on the mother as the caretaker and nutrition provider for baby. That is A LOT of responsibility for someone new to the motherhood game.

The fourth trimester is a time that someday you will miss (or maybe not).

As cliché as it is, someday, you will miss this newborn stage. You’ll miss it for the good times, the bad, the absolutely insane, the sleep-deprived days, welcoming those first moments and for the wholesomeness you feel just holding your baby in your arms. You may not enjoy every moment - and that’s okay. That makes us human.

No matter if this is your first or second baby, your whole world has been turned upside down and is time we will not get back. Time is fleeting, although it seems to pass us by more quickly when we are sleep-deprived!

The fourth trimester is about learning how to ask for help and to accept it in the future.

Can we have it all...a clean house, a career, a newborn, no piles of dirty laundry, a well-stocked fridge and pantry, a spectacularly clean car, dishes that are cleaned and organized? Sure. You can, but at what cost? Your physical, mental and emotional health.

The fourth trimester is the time to seek out and establish your support system. It can be as simple as a spouse, friends or family. However, don’t be afraid to branch out! Other organizations and services to consider: mother’s helper or postpartum doula, a cleaning crew, Instacart and Shipt for your grocery shopping and delivery needs, a service that can come to your home and clean your car, services like Amazon Baby that replenish your diapers according to schedule, etc.

The fourth trimester is about growing your village.

Welcome to the mommyhood. Your friends may look at you differently now thanks to your new addition, but that’s fine. You now have the opportunity to find new friends and acquaintances who are mothers just like you! Becoming part of the parenthood means you are never alone. There are so many new moms out there, along with 2nd or 3rd or 4th time moms that can lend you an ear when you need it and provide encouragement during those tough times.

The fourth trimester is chaotic.

You know what they said about the best-laid plans...that is completely what the fourth trimester entails! Controlled chaos. Never ending learning. Modified expectations. Plans thrown out the window.

Roll with the punches. Think on your feet. Embrace the tender moments amongst the disarray. Remember, a baby does not understand how they should and shouldn’t act in public, a baby does not care about letting you sleep before a busy next day, a baby doesn’t understand that a diaper blow out (while in public without a change of clothes) leads to such stress for mom! Life in general isn’t picture perfect, so don’t feel like you have to be! You got this!

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