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The Fourth Trimester (What Is It and How to Get Through It)

If you’re pregnant or have children, you are likely familiar with the term \”trimesters\” and may be thinking there are three. What if I told you there are three trimesters DURING pregnancy and one trimester AFTER pregnancy? The fourth trimester is considered the first 12 weeks after a woman goes through delivery of her baby and it’s a really important one to talk about.

During the fourth trimester, A LOT is happening internally and externally for a woman. Internally, your body is going through a massive change as it recovers from delivery and adjusts to life again without your baby inside of your uterus. This is a time where hormonally and emotionally you may be feeling a lot, including happiness, overwhelm, sadness, tearfulness, increased worry, joy, anger, and loss of self to name a few. There are also many changes happening externally during this time. External changes can look like increased responsibility, decreased time spent doing leisure activities, limited social interaction, less time spent away from home, sleep changes, and lack of sleep.

During the first 12 weeks postpartum, there are also many new thoughts and worries that are challenging to navigate. It’s very common to have increased worry about your baby, their health, and their safety. There are also times when this worry can create feelings of depression and sadness. Women often report these changes feel hard to manage and overwhelming, creating a sense of doubt and negative thoughts like, “I can’t do this” or “I don’t think my baby likes me”. If this is you, you are not alone and YES your baby loves you.

So how do we manage this rollercoaster of a trimester? While there is no “one way” to cope with these changes and everyone’s experience is unique, there are some tools that can be helpful no matter where you are at in your postpartum journey. Whether you are one week or twelve weeks postpartum, it’s important to:

  • Give yourself grace. You are doing a lot AND this is not easy. You and baby have to learn about each other and establish a bond, and this takes time.
  • Take it one day at a time. Don’t focus on tomorrow, just be present in the now, today.
  • Advocate for yourself. Speak up and ask for help. This also means being willing to accept help from others.
  • Lower expectations. You’re trying to navigate a whole new set of thoughts, responsibilities, and emotions. Keep expectations very low and realistic.
  • Don’t try to keep up. It’s better to focus on healing your body and bonding with your baby than the housework that is piling up.
  • Talk about it. When things feel challenging, they will talk about it. Lean on a partner, a trusted friend or family member, or consider seeking outside support from a professional.

The fourth trimester, or the first 12 weeks after birth, is a time where you may feel pushed to your limit in many ways. It’s not uncommon for women to report an increase in symptoms of anxiety and depression during this time. If you are struggling in your postpartum journey with symptoms of increased worry, intrusive thoughts, lack of energy, depressed mood, feeling overstimulated, lack of interest in things you once enjoyed, inability to feel relaxed, difficulty sleeping, or loneliness, you may benefit from extra support during this time. Reach out to us today to learn how we can best support you in your postpartum journey and navigate life through the fourth trimester and beyond.