Understanding Your Fourth Trimester: Just the Facts

Understanding Your Fourth Trimester: Just the Facts

Your fourth trimester is the 12-week period right after you’ve delivered your baby. This is a transition period full of emotional and physical changes for you and your baby. Helping your newborn adjust to this new world is just part of the fourth trimester experience. Re-creating that sense of safety for your baby starts with making sure you’re taking care of yourself also.

What does the fourth trimester look like for your baby?

Once your baby has arrived–a new world of smiles, tears, fears and giggles awaits them! Your baby has spent nine months in your warm, snug womb.

There are many ways in your fourth trimester to sooth your baby (and yourself). For your baby, small things can make a world of difference. They still have their umbilical cord still attached to them, but they don’t feel the “womb temperature” anymore and are adjusting to A/C units blowing into their tiny faces.

Here’s a few things you should note about your baby’s first experiences:

Swaddling and swaying is a great way to keep your baby in a confined space (think recreating the womb). A swaddle creates a sense of security for your baby after they’re born and can aid in allowing your baby to wake less frequently and sleep for longer periods.

Skin to skin contact is encouraged seconds after you give birth and should continue long after birth. It’s a great way to connect with your baby. Have your partner also engage in skin-to-skin contact with the baby. It’s a great way for you both to connect to the baby.

Your baby’s umbilical cord will need to be cleaned with rubbing alcohol and a little cotton ball once a day to ensure it does not get infected. The umbilical cord usually will take about a week to fall off. Once the umbilical cord falls off the belly button, your baby can have warm baths in a baby-safe bathtub.

OB-GYN visits will be encouraged by the first week of your baby’s delivery to ensure all is going well with your body and your healing process. Babies usually will lose half a pound to one pound after they’re born, but within the fourth trimester should regain the weight (and then some!). Babies all grow at different rates. Your baby’s pediatrician will be able to answer any lingering questions you may have about your growth.

What does the fourth trimester look like for you?

It is important to remember that the next 12 weeks will be full of physical and emotional changes for you.

The best thing you can do for your newborn is to give yourself self-care. Your hormones are in flux, your organs are shifting back to their original spots in your body, and your breast milk production is up. You’ll also be experiencing normal postpartum bleeding and healing of your perineal area. If you choose to nurse, you may also experience body fatigue as your body reacts to the demands of milk production. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t properly care for others.

Some practical tips for the fourth trimester are:

Eat well: If you are nursing, you’re going to need extra calories for your baby. Get ready to snack – and snack often. Whole foods, like salmon, fruits, vegetables, potatoes, squash, nuts, and grains, are all great ideas to build meals on. Try to stay away from processed foods and sugar when possible. When in doubt, you can always go back to your fertility (or pregnancy) diet.

Sleep when you can: This may sound like a “duh” moment to you, but you need to take advantage of these moments when you can. In the fourth trimester, your baby’s sleep pattern will not be routine (sorry, mama), nor should you expect it to be. Make sure that when your baby sleeps – you’re taking advantage of that time to sleep yourself. If that is 11 am – that is ok. Don’t feel guilt or pressure to do more than you can during this time. Postpartum is a time to connect with your baby and allow yourself time to heal.

Ask for help: If you have a partner, encourage them to engage with the baby as much as possible. Responsibility alone shouldn’t fall on you – so be sure to communicate your feelings early and often.

Limiting (or scheduling) house visits is another great way to provide you with time to build good routines and regimens with the baby. Asking those who visit to help can provide you with a quick chance for a nap – or even a sitz bath to heal.

Make sure you’re asking for help – and if others offer help – accept it.

See your OB-GYN/midwife: Your physical recovery from pregnancy is going to take time. It is essential to plan your postpartum OB-GYN visit and advocate for yourself during those visits. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that new moms have their first postpartum checkup within three weeks of giving birth, plus a comprehensive exam within 12 weeks of delivery.

If you experience any of the following symptoms during the fourth trimester, call your doctor immediately:

  • Heavy bleeding or passing of clots
  • High temperature or fever
  • A hard or painful lump in your breast
  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • An area around your stitches that is red, hot, or oozing
  • Pain, tenderness, or a warm area in your legs.

It is also important to note that many women will experience “the baby blues” in the first few days after giving birth. You may feel sad, anxious, or overwhelmed. You may also have mood swings, crying spells, trouble sleeping, and a loss of appetite. Hormones can make your body do many things.

As your body’s hormones adjust to post-pregnancy – try to understand that these symptoms are temporary and will subside. If it does not, and these feelings do not go away, it is essential to share this with your OB-GYN or midwife.

Postnatal depression affects one in nine women and is nothing to feel guilt or shame over.

What to expect at the end of the fourth trimester

The fourth trimester will see your baby growing and thriving. Your baby is going to go from a newborn who gazes at the world to a more bubbly interactive baby who is playful, imitates your movements, and will smile. You may also be able to start building routines into your day and enjoy longer naps from your little one. By the end of your fourth trimester, you can also expect to feel more physically and emotionally comfortable.

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