Updated: Oct 22, 2020
By simple definition, the fourth trimester is the 12-week period of time following the birth of your baby. But there’s so SO much more to it than just that. Your body is healing, your hormones are...regulating (if you can even call it that), your uterus is returning to its non-pregnant size...and all of this and much more all while trying to learn how to take care of this brand new human being your family has been blessed with! On top of that, it can be a pretty scary transition for baby as they go from the world they’ve known for 9 months, now into our bright, cold, noisy world.
[DISCLOSURE: This information is not meant to be ALL encompassing and should NOT replace seeking advice from your health care provider for specific questions, solutions, and concerns about your health! The purpose of this blog is to spark curiosity and gain some insight into your health.]
With you and your baby both learning to navigate a whole new life, this can be a tough transition for many. There are so many wonderful things that come during this time, but it’s important to prepare yourself to make this transition as simple and enjoyable as possible! Here are my best tips on preparing to thrive and enjoy your fourth trimester:
PREPARING FOR POSTPARTUM
1. FREEZER MEAL PREP
Do you have some favorite meals that can be prepped and frozen? Make as much space in your freezer as you can to have at least a few freezer meals at the ready! You can even make a party of it and invite some of your close friends and family over to help you prepare these meals all together. Trust me, you’ll run into a few nights where you’ll be so thankful to be able to have a meal practically ready for you- anything you can just pop in a casserole dish or the crock pot is a winner!
2. STOCK UP
Think about some of the things you need on a regular basis that won’t go bad within the next 6 months. Can you stock up on them? Saving yourself trips for things like toilet paper, shampoo/conditioner, soap, and so on can help you focus on relaxing during your postpartum period instead of feeling like you need to rush out for the unexpected empty package of some basic necessities. Even things that can go in the freezer like meats and frozen fruits for smoothies can be great additions to this “stock up” list!
3. SUPPORT SYSTEM
Who are your people? Obvious ones include your spouse, your parents, and some close friends. Maybe you’ve even met some mom friends or introduced yourself to an awesome moms’ group like Huddle Up Moms. Lean on these people and don’t be afraid to reach out to them! Knowing that you’re not alone makes a world of difference when you enter motherhood. Communicate with your support system how you made need help so that they can be at the ready to help you where need be! Especially when it comes to mom friends, it’s so reassuring to get to ask them what their experience was on XYZ situation (if you want their input, that is).
4. MENTAL HEALTH
If I can impart only ONE piece of wisdom to you for your fourth trimester (and beyond!), it’s to NOT WAIT to address any challenges you feel you are experiencing in your mental health. In fact, if you have had any mental health struggles prior to birth and pregnancy, I actually recommend setting yourself up with a mental health care regimen, directed by a professional, BEFORE you encounter any challenges. All too often, women have a hard time recognizing the mental health struggles they’re experiencing...and this frequently leaves us dealing with it much longer than we should. So I’ll say it again for the people in the back: DO. NOT. WAIT. If you feel off, talk to somebody. Don’t wait until you’re in crisis mode to do something about it.
NOTE FOR PARTNERS: I’m actually going to put the responsibility of this one on you! It’s really difficult for a new mom, amidst all the change and overwhelm, to recognize a struggle within herself. It’s even a hundred times more difficult for her to acknowledge and communicate her struggle to those around her. She will not know how to communicate, and she’ll struggle with whether she should communicate what she’s going through. She’s going to worry that if she does that people (including you) will think she’s a bad mom; she’s going to have thoughts of whether someone will want to take her baby away from her because of this...these are both pretty irrational, but it is a thought that many moms will struggle with alongside their already big struggle with their mental health. So give her some grace, and show her you support her and want to get her whatever help she needs without judgment.
SURVIVING THE 4TH TRIMESTER
So the time is here. Your baby is here, and you’ve now entered your fourth trimester. What are some of my best tips as you progress through your fourth trimester?
1. ALWAYS REMEMBER:
You only have TWO jobs during this time: 1. Take care of yourself 2. Take care of your baby. Anything else can be done by someone else, or it can wait.
2. ASK FOR HELP
Do NOT hesitate to ask for help. If you don’t have friends or family nearby who are able to help, look into hiring a postpartum doula! What often happens is that others are willing and happy to help, but they don’t really know HOW to help. They don’t know what will be helpful to you or what will be overstepping their boundaries. So I encourage you to have a list of chores or tasks that would be a big help if someone else could do it for you. Then when someone asks you, you can pull right from that list!
3. ACCEPT THE HELP
OK, I know this seems like the same point as the last one, but it’s not. Many times, we are offered help, but we are too proud or too humble to accept it. Mama, ACCEPT THE HELP. You are not being needy, you are not being lazy. Wouldn’t you happily do the same for a dear friend who was in the position you’re in now? I encountered this myself when I had a friend offer to put together a meal train. I finally caved and let her put it together, and you know what? It was the biggest blessing for us! We got to have some delicious meals from some sweet friends, and they had the pleasure of being helpful! So just let people help!
4. TAKE YOUR PRENATALS
Make sure to continue taking your high quality prenatal vitamins (or an awesome postnatal vitamin). Birthing a tiny human causes a lot of your nutrients to plummet. Couple that with poor sleep, new stress, and the tendency to not eat the greatest (although this should be a priority as well!), it’s easy to not have the right nutrients for your body to thrive in postpartum! While most nutrients should be consumed in your diet, don’t be afraid to take advantage of a little extra help from your prenatal/postnatal vitamins to help you stay on track.
5. IGNORE THE KARENS
You’re going to get a lot of unsolicited advice. Like. A. LOT.
But you know what you have to do with that advice? Absolutely nothing. Give a polite, “Thanks for sharing,” and move on with listening to YOUR gut and YOUR baby.
Baby’s crying and you know they need to be snuggled, even though Great Aunt Ruth says you’ll spoil the baby with too much affection? Listen to YOUR gut and YOUR baby.
Your baby is waking often to feed, and even though you’re exhausted you can tell it’s what baby needs, even though your best friend keeps “gently” reminding you how much sleep she got after sleep training her infant? Listen to YOUR gut and YOUR baby.
Motherhood is NOT the time to be a people pleaser. Listen to the advice that resonates and feels right for you and your family, and leave the rest.
The fourth trimester is not all rainbows and unicorns. I can almost guarantee you’re going to encounter some sort of challenges, but also believe me when I say that it can be a really wonderful experience as well. I hope these tips are helpful for you in preparing and with some tips on thriving during postpartum! Don’t forget to reach out to Huddle Up Moms and let us know how we can support you best as you transition into motherhood!
Article Written by Dr. Kimmie Chernichky
Dr. Kimmie Chernichky is a Certified Pediatric and Prenatal Chiropractor at Chernichky Family Chiropractic. She has a unique opportunity to get to follow her patients through their prenatal journey, and into postpartum and beyond. She is honored to be trusted by families through this transition, and makes sure to always support and guide her new moms in this often confusing stage of life.
Dr. Kimmie is married to her best friend (and business partner!), has a two-year-old, and a sweet little bundle on the way. She and her family love to get out and explore the sights and events in the area, and especially enjoy getting to return to her alma mater, Virginia Tech!
For more information about the 4th Trimester click here to watch a Pre-recorded workshop from our 2020 Pregnancy and Postpartum Virtual Summit.