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

Written by Angelica-Hazel Toutounji | 23 September, 2020

The fourth trimester

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.

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.

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.

Nourish yourself

As mamas we often put the health and wellbeing of everyone else before our own. The fourth trimester is a golden time to nourish yourself minus the guilt, as the act of nourishing you will in turn nourish baby. Eating a well balanced nutrient rich diet with an emphasis on wholefoods is absolutely critical. This is not a time to count calories or to fill your plate with fast food options. If this process seems a little overwhelming use the last few weeks of pregnancy to fill your freezer with your favourite nourishing meals or alternatively organise some healthy choices through a meal delivery service.

For friends and family that are feeling unsure of what to bring when they meet baby for the first time, don’t discount a home cooked meal. The simple act of bringing a home made soup can mean more to a new mama than you will know. Soups are a great option as they are easily digestible and you can include a variety of vegetables in them.

It takes a village

Mamas, if you are struggling or feeling overwhelmed please reach out to your support network. I understand admitting that you need help can be quite daunting but you don’t need to go it alone. If your friends and family are offering to help you and their offer will take a load off your shoulders, let them.

Friends and family never underestimate how simple things such as doing a mamas dishes or offering to hold baby whilst mama showers may mean to a mama. If you are visiting a new mama and are comfortable enough to do something small to help her out, please do so. It may only take you five minutes but it may have been something that a mama has been trying to do all day.


Angelica-Hazel Toutounji

Angelica-Hazel is an Endeavour College Alumni and degree qualified nutritionist at Natural Health by Angelica-Hazel. She is also the owner of an organic tea brand called Saha Botanica and a mama of two.

Having completed post graduate training in Natural Fertility Education as well as becoming a MINDD practitioner she has a special interest in all aspects of women's health and paediatric nutrition.

Alongside working in clinical practice, Angelica-Hazel runs workshops, hosts health retreats and writes feature articles on wellbeing and sustainability for a range of online publications and businesses. She hopes to one day complete a Masters in Reproductive Medicine and Women's health.

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