4 things moms should know about the fourth trimester
Posted: October 18, 2023 | Word Count: 813
Did you know that the first 12 weeks after giving birth are known as the fourth trimester? While you may have just given birth, your body will continue to change just like it did during your three trimesters of pregnancy.
The fourth trimester can have many surprises for first-time mothers. They might experience many physical, mental and emotional changes as their bodies heal and adjust to motherhood. While they may expect certain changes like stretch marks, hair loss and weight fluctuations, many other postpartum adjustments aren't discussed as much.
First Response™ wants to bring awareness to the changes mothers should expect during the fourth trimester. By learning about these changes and how to manage them, women can embrace and accept them with self-compassion and feel empowered to ask for support during their postpartum journey.
1. Postpartum bleeding
If you're a first-time or soon-to-be first-time mom, you may not know you'll experience bleeding after birth. While it may seem scary, this is a very normal part of the postpartum healing process.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, this vaginal discharge is known as lochia and contains a mix of blood, mucus and uterine tissue. It's similar to menstrual blood and can last several weeks, though the heaviness of the discharge should subside over time.
During the first six weeks after giving birth, use sanitary maxi pads (not tampons) to deal with the bleeding. For the first week, expect to go through several pads throughout the day. Most importantly, remember to take it easy and give your body time to heal.
2. Breast engorgement
During the fourth trimester, you may experience breast engorgement until your milk supply regulates. Your breasts may feel swollen, tight and tender, and you may even leak breast milk until symptoms subside, usually within a few days as you begin to regularly breastfeed. Use a cold compress to relieve swelling and pain. If you choose to breastfeed, you can wear a well-fitting bra to provide support and reduce soreness, according to La Leche League International.
If you don't plan to breastfeed, it can take up to several weeks for breast engorgement to subside. During this time, do not pump so your body gets the signal that it doesn't need to produce milk. A cold compress, supportive bra and over-the-counter pain meds can help you manage pain and discomfort until you stop producing milk.
3. Poor sleep
Babies don't have the same sleep schedules as adults. According to the Sleep Foundation, while newborns sleep up to 18 hours a day, they don't sleep in one solid block of time like adults do. Until your baby begins to sleep through the night, you will likely be up several times a night to attend to your baby.
To combat sleep deprivation during the fourth trimester, nap during the day when your baby sleeps. If a partner or family member is helping you, trade off middle-of-the-night feedings. Also, ask friends and family for help with house chores or child care so you can get some well-deserved rest.
4. Postpartum depression
You may have heard of the baby blues when mothers feel overwhelmed, irritable and stressed the first couple of weeks after giving birth. This is your body's natural response to the drop in hormone levels postpartum. However, some women may feel these symptoms more intensely and for long periods, indicating a more serious form of depression.
According to the National Institutes of Health, one in seven women can develop postpartum depression (PPD) within the first six weeks of giving birth. Some symptoms of PPD include:
- Depressed mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure
- Loss of energy or fatigue
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
Because of the societal expectations of motherhood, it can be difficult for women to admit they need help. That's why it's incredibly important for new mothers to have a support system of friends, family and other mothers to help them overcome the stigma of PPD and get the care they need.
If you're experiencing PPD, reach out for help and contact your doctor. While PPD is serious, it is treatable.
These are just four ways your life may change after giving birth. While these changes may sound overwhelming, you can manage them with a little help and understanding. That's why First Response has launched the Pregnancy Hub by First Response.
This online community aims to connect, inspire and provide resources to those navigating trying to conceive (TTC), pregnancy and motherhood. By joining, you'll have free access to resources and advice, the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations with other members, share personal experiences, and more. To learn more and get connected, visit FirstResponsePregnancyHub.SocialMediaLink.com.
**The content provided on this health blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.**