The FOURTH Trimester
Q & A: THE FOURTH TRIMESTER WITH PEACE, LOVE & BIRTH
Surely once you’ve endured (or enjoyed) labour and given birth, it can only get better right? Well you may need to think again. We sat down with Katie from Peace, Love and Birth to have an honest chat about what really happens, and how to realistically prepare yourself for those first few weeks after baby arrives.
Please break it down for us - What exactly is the fourth trimester?
The 4th trimester aka baby moon is the first few weeks after baby is born where Mama is getting to know her tiny little human, recovering from birth, getting to grips with feeding and all the new stuff, its hard to put a definitive time on it but 40 days or around 6 weeks is a good benchmark.
How will this affect new mums, emotionally and physically?
Emotionally it can be a rollercoaster with highs and lows, being a new parent can bring new challenges to your relationship with your partner and all of this happens on limited sleep. The fluctuations of hormones we experience in pregnancy continue into early motherhood, Oxytocin still plays a pivotal role in the first few weeks, it plays a part in bonding with your baby and also with breastfeeding. It can take up to 2 years for your hormones to get back to their pre-pregnancy levels so be kind to yourself!
Physically there is a lot going on in the body. Even if you have a straightforward birth with no complications, the body can still feel a bit knackered, after all it has just been through perhaps the most intense physical activity of your life! The uterus takes around 4 weeks to go back to its original size so expect cramping and perhaps contractions.
You may have experienced some tearing and have had stitches too. Avoid too much physical activity until you have your 6 week check up at the GP and even then consider if going full pelt is a good idea…I went for a run after I had the green light from the doctor and honestly it felt like my insides were going to fall out. I stuck to yoga and reformer pilates after that! I think there is still an unnecessary amount of pressure on women to ‘snap back’ after birth. You only need to look at the media for that. In reality it took me a year of just eating a balanced diet and regular exercise to get back to feeling comfortable with my body.
Sounds pretty daunting, what advice would you give to Mums-to-Be to prepare for this crucial time?
Well there's a very good reason for the saying it takes a village to build a child. We were designed by nature to have a ‘tribe’. in the not too distant past we would be surrounded by Grandmas and Aunties and Sisters to help out with new babies but the reality for most of us is that we live in nuclear families, away from our nearest and dearest. Its part of your birth prep, it’s a good idea to just spend a bit of time thinking about the practicalities of early parenthood.
If you live close to family that are willing to help then thats a huge bonus. If not, consider other ways to call in help or make your life easier in those first few weeks, This could be a cleaner, a post natal doula or if you are watching the pennies simply asking friends to bring home cooked meals or pick up some shopping for you when they come over for a visit. That stuff costs nothing!
But having a baby takes up so much time and energy, new mums may be thinking ‘how will I possibly find the time to rest and recover’ Do you have any other gems to share with us (or top tips)?
Generally doing as little as possible is my advice - it's ok if you don't shower today, it's ok if you stay in bed for a week…or two and always, always seek help if you need it. Reaching out and asking for help does not make you a bad mum! Find a way for it all to work for you and your family. There is no one size fits all approach to parenthood. No book you read or post on a parenting forum knows you or your values so work with your instincts alongside any advice you pick up along the way.
Katie is a qualified hypnobirthing practitioner and who runs a Hypnobirthing course based in Walthamstow, East London. Katie offers a no-bullsh*t breakdown of how birth actually works, from the science and biology down to the logistics of hospitals and home births.