The 4th Trimester: A Midwife’s Guide

midwife bridie

Your 9 month str-e-tch is over Mama and your little one (or ones!) are finally here! But, did you know you’re now entering the little known next stage of your journey, the 4th Trimester? What is the 4th Trimester, we hear you cry! We caught up with midwife and Mum of 2 Bridie from @bumptobeyondyour_birth  to chat about all things Trimester 4.

Keep reading to find out everything you can expect in the 4th Trimester, common challenges when breastfeeding and how your skin can change in this time. You got this, Mama!

What Is The 4th Trimester?

The 4th Trimester marks the period from the moment your baby is born until they are 3 -months old.

How Does My Baby Develop In The 4th Trimester?

The 4th Trimester explains many changes your newborn goes through to adapt and develop to the outside world. It’s described as a trimester because, like the three trimesters of pregnancy, your newborn continues to go through significant development.

I find understanding the 4th Trimester being about baby learning so much and having to adapt to the outside world explains the typical behaviours of your newborn and, therefore, why they need holding so much, remain close to you and feed frequently.

image of midwife bridie

What Changes To My Body Can I Expect During The 4th Trimester?

Many changes happen to your body during this 4th Trimester, starting with the recovery process from giving birth, for some this can be a quicker process compared to those who may have had a more complicated delivery. Your body is physically returning to pre-pregnancy, so organs are shifting back to their usual place, and hormones are also fluctuating, which can explain why you are left feeling emotional at points.

You’re also going through adapting to life with a newborn, which includes the physical and emotional demands that you have caring for a newborn, including the establishment of breastfeeding.

With all these changes taking place, it’s essential to allow your body time to recover and appreciate the differences your body of still going through, so take things slow and don’t over-do it!

What Are The Common Challenges I Could Expect If I Start Breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is something you learn to do, and it’s essential to understand it isn’t always an easy process for every woman and can take time and perseverance. My advice to the women I care for is the more time you put in at the beginning, the more successful you are overall, and in the long run, it does become more manageable and almost second nature. Initially, it’s all about getting the correct positioning and attachment because if this isn’t correct, it can make you feel uncomfortable and sore. Ask for lots of help initially to ensure this is all correct, and don’t forget you won’t get it perfect every time. I advise using amble amounts of nipple cream during the first few weeks to help with any initial soreness and discomfort.

How Can I Help My Body Recover From A Vaginal Delivery Or C-section?

Women will recover at different rates postnatally. Firstly, don’t compare yourself to others and listen to your own body and needs. Make sure you have pain relief to take during the postnatal period. Buy it ahead of time so that it’s available at home for when you’ve delivered. In the first few day’s rest at home, I like to think of it as nesting with your baby, keeping visitors to a minimum and accepting help from your partner. Although it’s not always easy with a newborn, try to rest when you can, this doesn’t mean always having full naps during the day, but just relaxing in bed or on the sofa can still be beneficial.

Eating and drinking frequently will also aid your recovery; drink plenty of water and have healthy snacks available throughout the day to keep you going. I advise women to prep a postnatal bag or basket with everything they’ll need postnatally, like pain relief, snacks, water bottles, nipple cream, etc.

Don’t push your body too hard; start with short trips or short walks to get you out of the house. Listen to your body, and if you feel tired or in pain, you may be doing too much; I advise women to take regular rest days during the 4th Trimester and alternate an active day with a rest day in the first few weeks. Finally, don’t fill your diary with lots of appointments and visitors. Take it slow being mindful of the recovery you’re going through.

How Can I Support My Mental Health In The 4th Trimester?

The 4th Trimester is a time of significant change for you physically and mentally, and you must consider your mental well-being during this time. Firstly, remember hormones play a part that can lead to you feeling emotional, especially during the first week you can feel tearful, so accept support from your partner and be open about how you feel. Talk to your partner before giving birth about your expectations of having visitors and people to stay during your 4th Trimester so added pressures aren’t put upon you.

Sleep deprivation can play a part in how you feel mentally, and a lack of sleep will impact your mental well-being. Plan help in advance, think carefully about who will offer you the best support and stagger the help rather than having it all at once. Following my points above about taking regular rest and eating well, try to avoid cabin fever, especially when your partner returns to work. You don’t need to pack your week out with many things to do. I found meeting timings often quite stressful but try to get out when you can, even if it’s a short walk to the corner shop. Getting out can increase your energy levels, and light exercise like walking can release endorphins, making you feel happier.

Please don’t compare yourself to others, particularly on social media and accept it takes time to adapt to the role of being a mother, and women adjust to this at different rates. It’s okay to say you don’t feel great and that you are struggling; believe me, we all feel this way at times! Most importantly, if you feel concerned about your mental well-being, always seek help by talking to your midwife, health visitor or GP. It doesn’t make you a bad mother. It just ensures you get the correct service you need to cope.

midwife bridie

What Are Good Tips To Keep My Energy Levels Up During This Time?

  • Eating well
  • Getting out
  • Resting
  • Accept help

How Can My Skin Change In The 4th Trimester?

With so much going on with your body and fluctuations in hormones, you can expect changes in your skin. You might feel your pregnancy glow starts to disappear due to certain hormones decreasing, and this glow becomes replaced with either dry, itchy or oily skin. Be aware that these changes are expected, and your body is now adapting to life post-pregnancy, and after time it starts to even itself out.

Due To Skin Changes, What Kind Of Products Should I Be Using In The 4th Trimester?

Choose products that are kind to your skin; you may need to change products you’ve previously used in pregnancy to adapt to the skin changes you are now experiencing. It may also be a little bit trial and error finding which products work best for you now your skin has changed.

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Ellie Costain

Ellie Costain

Writer and expert

Ellie is an Online Content Editor with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Language and Media and Communications. She has experience in content creation, and has a passion for reading, everything skincare and travelling.