The fourth trimester is real and here’s how to navigate it

Photography:Alexa Doula Photography

By Angelica-Hazel Toutounji

As a society, we have become very familiar with the three trimesters of pregnancy. However, there is little mention of the postpartum period known as the fourth trimester.

What is the fourth trimester?

The fourth trimester is defined as a period of time that starts when your baby is born and finishes three months later.

As a mother to a toddler and another baby on the way, I experienced first-hand the enormous adjustment that came with this period. Throughout pregnancy, many women focus on preparing for the birth experience that they want, not realising that the hardest part of motherhood is not necessarily the discomfort experienced from giving birth, but the personal growth and adjustment that comes from navigating your new role as a mother.

Reflecting back on this critical time period, I strongly feel that we as a society don’t put enough emphasis on caring for new mums during this phase. So, with that in mind, I am sharing some tips for navigating the fourth trimester for the mother and those supporting her.

As a society, we have become very familiar with the three trimesters of pregnancy. However, there is little mention of the postpartum period known as the fourth trimester.

Be kind to yourself

First and foremost – be kind. After growing, birthing and breastfeeding a baby (if this is your choice, no judgement here!), it is common for women to feel a disconnect with their physical body and yearning for their former physique. This is understandable and can be a normal process of adjustment. However, I would love to be able to reframe this thought process into one of gratitude and self acceptance for the wonder that is the human body. Yes, there is no denying that your body can change dramatically with motherhood, but, if it didn’t change, you wouldn’t have been able to grow and birth your beautiful baby. So mamas, when you look at yourself, try to be kind and feel appreciation for what your body has been through.

The same importance of kindness is needed when talking to a mama going through the fourth trimester. We all mean well and can often be tempted to give advice that wasn’t asked for with the hope of helping the mama. Before dishing out any unsolicited advice or making comparisons between children, ask yourself first ‘does this come from a place of kindness?’. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is simply be there and listen without trying to fix everything for her.

So mamas, when you look at yourself, try to be kind and feel appreciation for what your body has been through.

Rest

Giving birth is like running a marathon. Not only is it physically and mentally demanding, but often mamas only have small windows of time to rest and recuperate due to feeding demands. So if you are able to sleep or rest for any period of time, do so. Often, when we are back at home, it can be easy to become distracted by the never-ending pile of washing or dishes but trust me when I say that your health is more important. If there is any time in your life to prioritise rest and not feel guilty about letting other household members take over domestic duties, it is now.

Also, for friends and family coming past to visit mama and baby, if you can offer to hold the baby whilst mama rests, please do so. Or alternatively, be mindful about your visit duration. Whilst you might have previously been able to pop around for three-hour coffee dates, please understand that the mama may be missing out on using that time for much-needed rest. By all means visit, but don’t expect to be waited on and don’t overstay your welcome.

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