This is a guest post by Cassidy Gibson-Cooper of parenting-central.com
The fourth trimester (the 12 weeks after delivery) serves as a crucial transition period for mothers and newborns alike. While newborns adjust to life outside the womb, moms undergo major physical and emotional changes as their body slowly recovers from pregnancy. While it is a given that the baby’s health takes precedence, mothers should not put their needs on the backburner either.
Rather, they should make healthy lifestyle changes, resulting in a smooth recovery. In this article, we will explore some of the prominent changes mothers can expect during the fourth trimester and the best self-care strategies to practice.
Fourth Trimester Challenges
In this section, we’ll explore a few common challenges moms can expect to face in the fourth trimester:
- Hormonal Changes: as reported by NCT, during pregnancy, the body produces various types of hormones, such as the human chorionic gonadotropic hormone (hCG), which plays a key role in maintaining pregnancy and the healthy development of the newborn in your womb. Other prominent pregnancy hormones include estrogen, progesterone, and human placental lactogen (hPL). After delivery, your body will start scaling back on some of these hormones to return to pre-pregnancy levels.
- Cramps and Muscle Pain: in the days following giving birth, many women experience cramps and abdominal discomfort. One of the reasons for this is the contraction of the uterus as it begins to start returning to its pre-pregnancy size. If the pain is too much to bear, over-the-counter painkillers should suffice to get things under control.
- Hair Loss: an increase in hormones during pregnancy results in greater hair growth. But, once hormones start returning to normal, your hair growth will as well. In the process, you’ll experience higher hair fall than before, at least for a few months.
- Contractions: if you underwent a C-section, expect to feel contractions (commonly known as afterpains) for a few days post-delivery. These often feel like menstrual cramps and are the body’s natural response to limit bleeding in the uterus by compressing blood vessels.
Self-Care Strategies to Manage Challenges
While there is no one-size fits all approach to managing fourth-trimester challenges, the following strategies are known to make the transition easier:
- Work with Your Healthcare Provider: Meet your Ob-gyn frequently in the months following delivery. If you cannot meet in person, set up digital appointments. In addition to helping you stay on track to recover, your doctor can prescribe the required medication and supplements as needed. If you don’t have insurance, most well baby care is covered by the government. But you should also look into affordable options for yourself. If you don’t have a spouse or parent whose policy you can join, look into joining the Freelancers Union (if applicable), Medicaid, or the Affordable Care Act.
- Get Plenty of Rest: With a newborn in the house, getting sound sleep will seem like an impossibility. However, given the toll your body has taken during pregnancy and delivery, it requires adequate rest to repair itself. Hence, rather than undertaking all child-caring responsibilities on your shoulders, include the whole family. Try to nap at the same time your baby does, and keep physical excursions to a minimum.
- Take a Break From Work: immediately returning to work will simply add to your woes by increasing responsibilities and stress. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides protection for you as a new mother. Get familiar with your rights, if your employer does not seem to be abiding by the rules. If you run a business, hire a virtual assistant and other freelancers to manage key responsibilities to keep your time commitment to the minimum.
- Start Moving: while you certainly shouldn’t jump into an intensive workout routine right after giving birth, slowly integrate movement into your daily routine. Exercise can help fight off depression, and since postpartum depression is a reality for many women, making small changes to help you feel better is key. If you live in a walkable area, take advantage of it by walking with the stroller around the neighborhood. Start small and see how you feel, and then expand your walks to the nearby park or shopping center. Being in nature also has mood-boosting benefits, so use this routine to keep your depression in check.
- Prioritize Healthy Eating: similar to rest, your body will require nutrition and energy to repair itself and keep you and your baby healthy while breastfeeding. New moms should include the following foods in their diet:
- Protein-rich Items: Eggs, fish, dairy, and meat products are the best options to meet your daily protein requirements.
- Fruits and Vegetables: Fresh fruits and vegetables of all colors should be a staple part of your diet.
- Whole Grains: Compared to refined grains, these have higher nutritional content and are easier to digest. The go-to options include whole wheat bread, cereal, and oatmeal.
- Monitor your caffeine intake: many women choose to abstain from caffeine during pregnancy and breastfeeding, but it is believed that lower doses of caffeine do not carry into breastmilk. So, if you’ve been dying for your morning cup of coffee, rejoice! An 8 oz cup of coffee generally contains about 100 mg of caffeine, and research estimates that 2-3 cups of coffee are acceptable for breastfeeding moms. So use that calculation if you’re more interested in tea or espresso beverages to find out how much you can safely consume. A shot of espresso has around 80 mg of caffeine, but blonde roasts are much more potent. Do your research and enjoy it in moderation.
Care for Yourself
While the fourth trimester is an integral period for the child and mother alike, it is often overlooked owing to a lack of education. But, with these tips at your disposal, you’ll be able to stay on top of your recovery by regularly meeting with doctors, delegating work responsibilities, and focusing on healthy eating. Remember to get out of the house for walks and short outings, as they will help you both mentally and physically during this important time.