Are you prepared for the 4th Trimester?
You’ve either just had your baby or are eagerly waiting to meet them. This is one of the most emotional, exhausting and exciting moments in your life. Nothing compares to the physical changes and intensity of emotions you face through pregnancy and on giving birth. But it doesn’t stop there. The feelings you experience after birth are equally overwhelming.
Putting your baby first is natural but they’re not the only star of the show. You can find a wealth of books and blogs discussing your baby’s development but very little focuses on you and the upheaval and changes that you will face.
What is the 4th Trimester?
The first 3 months of your baby’s life is the 4th trimester. This post-natal period is a time of huge change, learning and development for both yourself and your baby. You baby will focus on adapting to life outside the womb. Life 101 for them involves understanding night from day, learning to suck, eating frequently and sleeping a lot. They need you to be healthy and well in order to survive.
9 months of carrying your baby
Your body has spent nearly a year focusing on carrying another human being and keeping them alive. You look different, your blood volume increases, your insides are squashed, you move differently, eat differently and sleep patterns change. Your hormones have been running riot to help grow your baby and prepare for their arrival.
Bang – pregnant to post-natal
Your hormones surge again the minute you give birth as they kick start your body into mummy mode. This generates huge changes and overwhelming emotions. Instincts kick in, you start to lactate, and your focus is now entirely on your baby. You can experience a rollercoaster of emotions from deep love to depression and anxiety. Some fluctuation is normal but if you feel very depressed and it doesn’t lift, do seek professional help.
No matter who you are you are beholden to your hormones and may feel elated or cry at the drop of a hat. It’s not all emotional either. Your body feels new to you. You have a squishy bump instead of a pregnant tummy, your back is still curved and you’re off-balance, your pelvis is still loose and your swollen ankles will take a while to shrink.
Recovery and restoration
The 4th trimester is also a time for you to recover. It’s not all just love and cuddles. 9 months of pregnancy take its toll and birth is a huge physical challenge, whatever your birth experience. You may have lost a night’s sleep, torn tissue or have had muscles cut. You’re ouchy, bruised, sore and leaky. You are surrounded by nappies, creams, well-meaning relatives and pads galore. One thing’s for sure, you will have expended huge amounts of energy to bring your baby into the world. You need to allow yourself to physically heal and come to terms with the life-changing experience you are experiencing.
Our busy culture does not encourage rest. But even when you rest you are busy. Your body is healing and adjusting. Rushing around trying to get back to ‘normal’ will only take energy away from where it is needed. Gentle exercising from 6 weeks can be frustrating for those who are used to challenging their body, be patient. Rushing back to HIIT may actually hinder your recovery.
Many cultures expect women to lie down, recover and bond with the baby for 1 – 2 weeks. It’s a great approach as rest can also help breast feeding. Birth is natural but its stilll a huge physical challenge.
Preparing for the 4th Trimester
It can feel impossible to find the opportunity to rest and recuperate. You may have other children, responsibilities and a job to get back to. Planning for your 4th trimester when you are pregnant can really help. Like your birth plan, a post-natal 4th trimester plan can help alleviate worry, confusion and stress and allow you to focus on you and the baby, whilst others support you.
Family, friends and neighbours often want to help. Give them some guidance on how to best help you and you can get the support you need. Even if you’re baby has arrived it’s not too late to put plans in place. Be brave and ask for what you need, don’t feel guilty and be honest.
Pre-natal and Post-natal support
I offer advice on preparing for the 4th trimester as well as on breastfeeding, sleep and routines. If you are based in West Surrey and would like to attend a class, get in touch for details. I also can offer consultations on the phone or in person.