What is Fourth Trimester?
I am six weeks postpartum today. It’s been six weeks of constant snuggle, feeding and taking care of our sweet girl while also trying to take care of myself and three more kids. Taking care of a newborn is tiring. Transitioning to life out of womb is hard for the little one. They require a lot of nurturing from us, including feedings on demand (regardless of how you feed) which causes sleep deprivation for mothers. Sleep depreciation can lead to postpartum depression.
According to Pregnancy, Birth & Baby, fourth trimester is:
The fourth trimester is the 12-week period immediately after you have had your baby. Not everyone has heard of it, but every mother and their newborn baby will go through it. It is a time of great physical and emotional change as your baby adjusts to being outside the womb, and you adjust to your new life as a mum.
I am currently, in what is referred to as the fourth trimester going through a lot of changes, physically and mentally. You’d think by the fourth time I would be prepared for the fourth trimester, but the truth of the matter is that you can never prepare for postpartum. Each pregnancy was different for me, each pregnancy brought different postpartum experience. Each postpartum experience has taught me something — to give myself more grace, to love my body as is, to accept the changes with gratitude, to be thankful for our healthy babies. It has also taught me that the emotions I am feeling are valid, that the constant moor changes are normal, that our bodies change because they grow a human and that I am (and we are) all worthy.
How to get through the Fourth Trimester?
First I want to tell you that you are doing a great job mama, even if it doesn’t seem that way. You are keeping that tiny human alive, and that’s a success. You are that someone’s whole world, they see you as their everything. So, the next time you doubt yourself just remember that.
Second, I want you to know that motherhood is not all bliss, you will not enjoy every moment but that’s okay. You will not love every moment of motherhood, you’ll have a bad morning, a bad day and that’s all normal. As you adjust to your new role you’ll go through so many emotions, challenges but just remember that you are enough. Your children don’t need a perfect mother, they need a happy one.
Third, self-care is not selfish. While this early postpartum period is a time of great joy for many, myself included I am not going to sit here and tell you it’s easy. Postpartum is hard, and it makes us vulnerable, myself included so don’t forget to treat yourself too. You need it, and don’t feel guilty about it. When you’re taken care of, you’ll better take care of your little one. Trust me, a happy mother is the one that they want.
Fourth, your emotions will be all over, your hormones will be unpredictable, and you will be confused about your body “not bouncing back”. Trust me, there is no such thing as bouncing back. My emotions have been all over, the nightly sweats have been awful and I hate them. My body is going through changes once again, and it doesn’t feel like my own. But, I know that my body nurtured and grew a healthy baby, the baby I get to hold in my arms today so that’s okay. Our bodies change, and we shouldn’t create unrealistic expectations for new moms. It took your body nine months to get here, give it time to heal. Love your body and it will love you back.
Fifth, talk to your partner. You have to talk to you partner about how you’re feeling. They do not know what you are going through. I am sure they have heard of the term ‘postpartum trimester’ but they are probably unaware what it truly means. The first time I ever cried after giving birth, was right after we put our baby down for bed time and I came out of the room, sat down on the couch in our living room and started crying. I had no idea why I was crying, and even more confused my husband didn’t know why I was crying, so he asked me and I just said, “I don’t know.” He asked again, trying to figure it out but I didn’t even know. Then I realized that it was all part of postpartum life. So, talk to your partner.
Is Fourth Trimester as important?
As a nation we are so focused on the three trimesters of pregnancy, and often neglect to recognize the fourth trimester. It shouldn’t be that way. Fourth trimester is as equally important as the first, second and third trimester. During the fourth trimester women are at their most vulnerable time mentally and, in my personal opinion need more support.
During the pregnancy we see our doctors often, and the visits only increase as you get closer to your due date to ensure the baby is doing well. But, the goal should be to also include care beyond pregnancy to ensure mother’s well being. Right now, our first (and only) appointment is scheduled sometime 6-8 weeks postpartum. By this time wounds have healed whether you had a c-section or natural birth, we have grappled with sleeplessness, perhaps overcame those baby blues, got the hang of breastfeeding (if we are) and somewhat feel emotionally stable. But, this one time visit is not enough to care for us women postpartum as those varying hormones, lack of sleep, pressure to breastfeed all amount to a very troubling mental state for some.
After my first pregnancy I had felt the worst of postpartum journey one can imagine. But, I had no idea what was postpartum. I had no idea that what was happening to me at the time was the effects of postpartum, the fourth trimester. I had varying emotions, didn’t have baby blues but was overly protective of my baby. Hormones were just a mess, causing me even more weight gain after the pregnancy. I wasn’t feeling myself and I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know how to seek help either. Honestly, it all started to blend together and I just thought that’s how one should be feeling post baby. I started to believe it was normal. But, it wasn’t. I started reading on postpartum, on the fourth trimester and everything started to make sense. I was experiencing the worst of postpartum. It took me a while to get out of this funk but I did it. I never again came back to this stage after any of my pregnancies and I am so glad I didn’t, but I know so many women that struggle with this after each pregnancy. I do wish I had more support, more knowledge, more resources after having my first baby.
How to get support during fourth trimester?
If you’re pregnant, I encourage you to talk to your doctor about support you can receive during fourth trimester. We need to speak up for ourselves, because if we don’t this will continue to go unnoticed. If you’re needing more than that one appointment postpartum, don’t be afraid to tell your doctor. Things are slowly changing, and it’s encouraging to see that our nation is finally recognizing how difficult four trimester is for us women.
If you are postpartum, know that your emotions are valid, your journey is your journey and nobody else’s. Know that your experience is unique to you, and don’t compare yourself to anyone. If you’re feeling upset, sad, angry, depressed don’t be afraid to talk about it. Talking to someone, whether it’s your partner or a friend or your doctor helps. What may seem like small things can lead to bigger things, don’t be afraid to seek help. Postpartum depression can quickly overtake your life and you won’t even realize it.
I am always here if you need someone to talk to. Follow me on Instagram @mrs.vesnatanasic for daily shares of postpartum, mom life, parenting and everything in between.