While there’s often plenty of support during pregnancy, the first 12 weeks “fourth trimester” of being a mum can fall short. Here’s an expert guide to helping you or someone you know adjust to life as a new mum.
The fourth trimester is a transformational and challenging time for a Woman
Nearly every newborn baby loves to be as close as possible to their mum in their first few months of life. That’s not because they’re clingy or needy, it’s because they’re in their ‘fourth trimester’.
This stage refers to the first three months of a baby’s life. The premise is that babies aren’t born ‘ready’ for the outside world, and it takes them the first 12 weeks of their life to adapt to being outside the womb.
But the fourth trimester isn’t just about babies; it’s about mums, too. While getting to know your new baby can be joyful, this period can also be seriously tough. The fourth trimester is a transformational and challenging time for a woman, it’s a time of getting to know a new little human, as well as navigating feeding, less sleep, and changes in relationships and identity.
On top of healing from the impact of pregnancy and childbirth, there are also significant hormonal shifts that affect a woman physically and emotionally. it can be difficult to deal with.
There’s a lack of information to help mums and their partners cope with the fourth trimester, according to a 2020 study review. The review found that equal emphasis should be placed on the weeks before and after a baby is born in antenatal education classes, to set the stage for the long-term health and well-being of both parents and babies.
Providing the right kind of support to new mums and babies during this time is essential. Here are some strategies that can help make for a smoother adjustment.
If You’re A New Mum
Take Your Time
During the fourth trimester, it’s important to rest as much as you can. “The first 40 days is a pivotal time for healing,” says Anna.
“Women need to ensure they get horizontal rest for 30-60 minutes every day during this period.” After this, it’s still important to take things slowly as much as possible. “It can take a woman’s body up to 12 months to recover after having a baby,” she says.
“There are many factors that influence the recovery of a new mum, but l often see women mentally and emotionally adjusting to having a new baby after around six months. Hormones can start to settle around this time, which also contributes to the mum feeling more ‘adjusted’.” Don’t worry if it takes you longer though; every woman is different.
Rebuild Your Strength
This isn’t about ‘bouncing back‘, but helping your body heal so it can see you through the physical demands of looking after a baby. “I like to see new mums do gentle, controlled exercises to reconnect to their core muscles. Knowing how to do this safely is key to your recovery. lt will help you regain strength after pregnancy and birth, and improve your posture and core stability. Make sure you get advice from your health provider or a women’s physiotherapist before exercising after giving birth.
Post-Baby Gentle Core Exercises
Lie on your back on a mat, with your knees bent. Engage your abs and pelvic floor muscles, then slowly roll up through your spine. Your hips should be in line with your knees and shoulders. Hold for 10 seconds then slowly roll back down. Repeat 10 times.
2. Single leg extension
Start on all fours, with hands and knees aligned under shoulders and hips. Keeping a straight back, engage your abs and pelvic floor muscles, and extend one leg behind you. Keep pelvis stable and back straight. Alternate legs. Repeat 20 times.
Life can feel very busy after having a baby. And everything takes longer, getting around the supermarket, or even just getting out of your car requires more effort. Jobs that can be delegated to others should be done during this time. Consider using the Home Delivery services to make life easier. Life should not just snap back to normal after birthing a baby, as this can hinder healing. This is the time to delegate some tasks you might usually do. Women should be doing fewer activities around the house, or out and about, after giving birth.
Eat Healing Foods
New mums need to nourish their bodies. General Practitioners recommend eating lots of whole foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. Protein is important for healing as well as stabilizing blood sugar levels. Some delicious quick-to-eat high-protein snacks include low-fat yogurt, boiled eggs, or veggie sticks with hummus.
Some women can struggle with constipation after giving birth, so drinking lots of water is important. Doctors also recommend eating stone fruit, kiwifruit, berries, and soft pears, as these fruits help with bowel motility.
Join A Parents’ Group
One of the most helpful things to do during the fourth trimester is to connect with other parents in the same situation. Joining a parent’s group can provide wonderful emotional support. lt allows you ‘ to share stories, swap advice, and know that other people are going through the same thing as you are. Ask your GP or midwife about how to join a group near you.
If You Want To Support A New Mum
Getting help and support in the fourth trimester is key for new mums. As their body recovers and they have a newborn dependent on them, they must have help with all other aspects of life. Coming over to clean their house, take the bins out, or just make them a cup of tea can all make a huge difference to a new mum’s day.
Women in the fourth trimester need to eat well to heal, but often don’t have time to cook healthy, nourishing meals. Organizing a meal delivery, or dropping off a homemade meal is a great way to give them support. Meals that include collagen, such as slow-cooked meat in casseroles, stews, and soups, are very nourishing and healing for the body.
If you ask a new mum if she needs help, chances are she’ll say ‘no’. But it’s safe to assume she’s always going to be hungry, thirsty, or tired. Dropping off a takeaway coffee or snack, turning up to do the washing, or simply holding the baby while she takes a shower are all great ways to give support in the first 12 weeks and beyond.
If you, or a new mum you know, are experiencing continuing sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that makes it hard to care for yourself or your newborn, talk to your doctor or health provider about how to get help. You can also visit health websites or other online resources.