Ahh the 4th trimester, chalk this one up to another one of those things “no one told you”. I remember how hard the first two weeks were with Harvey, with breastfeeding challenges and recovering physically myself. Many women in my circle told me “just make it to 6 weeks, it gets so much better”. Things did get better by 6 weeks, but I definitely noticed a more substantial improvement at the 3-month mark. When I told people this they laughed and said, “yeah but no one wants to tell you that because 3 months feels like forever!” I am the type of person who likes to know what I am in for so I am here to tell you what to expect in the first 3 months, and offer some help of things that you can do to make the 4th trimester go more smoothly.
4th Trimester- What is it?
4th trimester is relatively new terminology in the birth and postpartum world. It is referring to the 3 months after birth for both mom and baby. Human babies are born relatively immature compared to other animals because our brains are larger (AKA bigger heads), so if we were born as far along developmentally as other animals, we would not be able to fit out of the birth canal. This is why it’s not uncommon for other animals to be up and walking days after being born and it takes humans months. Being born relatively immature makes human babies far more dependent and demanding on their mother. Babies will desire things that make them feel like they are still in the womb like being held close, skin to skin, movement and the shhhh sound. Fun fact, it is thought that they shhhh sound mimics the whooshing of amniotic fluid! I learned the hard way, when Harvey got really dry skin, that it is important to start moisturizing them early on as they are used to being in a fluid filled environment and being out in the air can really suck the moisture from their skin. These 3 months are critical for baby adjusting to the outside world and are exhausting for mom. There are a few key ways to help your body adjust to the 4th trimester
4Th Trimester Survival Guide
- Nutritious Easy to Digest Foods- I know I talk about foods a lot, but what you are eating every day has a big impact! Easy to digest is important, as it takes less work for your body to process the nutrients. Think things like soups, stews and smoothies! Also, key are healthy fats like avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Blueberries have been studied to contain a compound that helps to reduce the risk of postpartum depression, so load up on those any chance you get.
- Iron- Birth is an exhausting process and blood will be lost. Load up on iron rich foods like spinach, red meat, liver, beans, lentils, and oysters. Nettle infusions are another way to support iron levels. Nettle is a herb that is high in iron, and trace minerals, which is quite helpful for building mom back up after birth. Nettle is best used as an infusion. Click here to learn how to make one.
- Supplements- For the first 3 months, mom should be continuing to take her prenatal, for overall nutrients and iron, Omega 3’s to help with postpartum depression as well as baby’s brain growth, Vitamin D for mood and the immune system and if energy is a struggle a B Vitamin Complex. Click here for my favorite post-natal supplements
- Epsom Salt Baths- Are an easy way to absorb magnesium through the skin, helpful for sore/tight muscles, a safe way to promote relaxation, and a good routine to get into for self-care. If you are breastfeeding, rinse off your breasts after the bath, as it may make baby refuse the breast.
- SleepBelt- This was something we loved with Harvey. It is not a wrap, it’s almost like a tube top that you put the baby in. It allows you to do skin to skin hands free, and I really liked it for security when one of us was sitting on the couch or in bed in the early days and was really tired that it secures baby to you so if you happen to fall asleep the baby is not going to fall out of your arms, or off of the couch. It is not recommended for sleeping, it is just a safeguard if you happen to fall asleep by accident like new parents do
- Exercise- Please keep this to a minimum and low intensity! Six weeks postpartum is not the time to start training for your half marathon, more on this in the pelvic floor physiotherapy session. Intense exercise is seen as a stress on the body and a new mom’s body is already under enough stress with the demands of her baby and sleep deprivation.
- Pelvic Floor Physio- All women, regardless of how they gave birth, should be seen by a pelvic floor physio at approximately 6 weeks postpartum. This will give you information about what activities and exercises are appropriate for you at your stage in healing. It can help to prevent doing too much and setting yourself back in your recovery.
So, there you have it. Be kind to yourself during the 4th trimester and know that you are providing a ton to your baby in terms of their future development and it is exhausting!
How did you feel during the 4th trimester? What do you wish you knew? Post in the comments below
Dr Alexis sees patients via telemedicine and is currently accepting new patients. Click here to book your appointment