The fourth trimester seems like a made-up thing. After all, everyone knows pregnancy only has three trimesters and ends with the big bang that is labor and delivery. That, at least, is what movies and other media tend to teach. Yet, experienced parents know that the period of rapid change for a woman’s body, a family, and a baby’s still-developing system doesn’t end at delivery.
It takes months for these things to stabilize and a sense of normalcy to return. This continued period of adjustment is what is known as the fourth trimester. It lasts until the baby is four months old and, importantly, it includes Mom’s recovery period. While it can be difficult to predict exactly what a healing body will need or feel like and what needs a new baby will have, there are some things Mom and family can do to prepare for the fourth trimester. Even taking care of the household’s adults’ needs can fall to the wayside as the infant’s comfort comes first.
Therefore, food, sleep tips, and even bathroom requirements can be planned for beforehand to ease the transition from labor and delivery to home and responsibility. Here are some things to think about before the dawn of new parenthood.
20 Shop For Maternity/Nursing Bras
Ask any breastfeeding pro (well, any honest ones), and they’ll say that those first few days and sometimes even weeks of breastfeeding can be rough. While colostrum is supposed to come in around the time of birth, the twins don’t actually engorge until two to five days after delivery. Even ladies who normally don't need as much support find that their girls feel overly heavy and sore. Therefore, there’s a huge need for soft support. Kelly Mom recommends expressing any milk that’s starting to fill up the tank and make it feel like a chest boulder if the baby isn’t latching well or taking enough.
19 Go Ahead And Book That Massage
Postpartum massage is a real thing, not just the stuff of aching, tired new mothers’ dreams everywhere. The beauty of it is that it can be viewed as a medical procedure—or at least a medically beneficial boost to wellbeing. AP says that postpartum massage has been shown not just to help alleviate the lingering pain of a body healing from labor but has been proven to help with the baby blues and even its more severe cousin, postpartum depression. Also interesting is that postpartum massage has the added benefit of reducing the brain’s cortisol (its stress cocktail). This leads the body to quicker hormone balancing.
18 Call The Insurance
While we were suggesting talking to the providing insurance company to see if a breast pump is covered, which is still a good idea, The Bump suggests asking if and what parts of pregnancy and delivery will be covered and in what amount. The site goes on to say that most individuals covered by a plan due to either their or their partner’s full-time work will have anywhere between 25 percent and 90 percent of their prenatal and hospital care managed by insurance. That’s a huge span of medical care that can cost thousands of dollars. It’s better to call and ask what and how much will be taken care of so that the family can prepare for the rest to fall to them.
17 Stock Up The Comfort Measures
While it’s not often discussed, many moms find they’re still experiencing some pain down there after a natural delivery. Of course, since another human just bodily exited what is, in fact, a very small space! Fit Pregnancy recommends having spray lidocaine, which can be found in most pharmacy departments, on hand during the postpartum period for soothing aching nether regions and applying it after painful urination. The medicine can also come in both gel and cream form and can help with another post-labor difficulty: hemorrhoids. While it will need to be reapplied throughout the day, anything that helps a new mama sit more comfortably is great. Many moms also use Arnica or herbal sprays for their lady bits and bottoms postpartum with great results.
16 Collect Delivery Menus
Those first few weeks, let alone days, are so blurry and sleepless that the idea of cooking can be far outside the realm of possibility for new parents. This is even more so if there are already children in the house needing care in addition to the newest baby or if Mom underwent surgery to get the baby here. Not only will she not feel like cooking (and who does after a grueling medical event?) but she may not even be moving very well yet.
If the family is health-conscious, there are services like MotherBees that deliver what they call “nourishment for the first forty days and beyond.” Otherwise, it can be Chinese food and sandwiches all the way.
15 Practice Those Kegels
While many doctors recommend working on the strength of pelvic floor muscles before and during pregnancy (anything to help push that baby out faster), Sutter Health recommends doing so after as well to build up the strength that labor and delivery will have depleted. Remember, these muscles stretch and sometimes tear during the labor process. For new mamas who are having some... umm, leaks... doing regular Kegels right after delivery and building up to 20-second contractions can have huge benefits on bladder control and overall continence. The good news is this exercise can be done almost anytime, anywhere. It doesn’t require any certain position, so sitting, standing, or laying all work.
14 Make Or Buy A Door Sign
It’s inevitable. The baby, after a long night or shots or some other uncomfortable new-to-the-world experience—finally falls asleep. The house is peaceful and quiet because Mom or Dad is staring daggers at anything that even threatens to make noise, and then the doorbell rings. Someone is selling something. Someone is getting names for a petition. Someone decided that an unexpected visit would be welcome. Immediately, the baby wakes up and screams because that’s what babies do.
New parents can do their best to avoid this by DIYing or buying one of the door signs that warn would-be knockers that a baby is sleeping within.
13 Look Into Support
While new mamas need all kinds of support, this time we’re talking about belly bands or wraps. Why? For mothers that have C-sections, the wrap helps to make their incision site secure and lessens the sensation that moving any little bit will have their insides coming out. For all mamas, they provide support for the back and keep the squishy belly jiggling feeling to a minimum, to an extent.
The Womb Wellness Center claims that quickly binding the belly (around day five post-delivery) helps to support ligaments loosened by the nine months of expanding that was pregnancy. Bengkung belly binding is the most beneficial for Mom's recovery as it supports the internal organs, while many girdles and binders actually put more pressure on the pelvic floor.
Some women claim that they get the hourglass shape to their waist back quicker after binding. One person who swears by the bind? Kourtney Kardashian.
12 Keep Those Pre-Pregnancy Clothes Hidden
During pregnancy, a lot of expecting moms end up hiding away the parts of their wardrobe that no longer fit. Even though the growing belly is miraculous, looking at those size-skinnier jeans and tops can cause some anxiety. Don’t plan on pulling them out as soon as the hospital grants the release. Yet, Parents warns that there’s something factual in the commonly advised “nine months on, nine months off.”
The site also goes on to say that it’s not unheard of for mamas to lose a lot in the first month the baby is here. One thing moms can do to speed along the process is breastfeeding. This helps to both shrink the uterus and burn through calories.
11 Find A Great Sweater—Two Sizes Too Big
Whether it’s simply digging in the back of a closet or indulging in a shopping spree, we’ve found that mamas in the hospital often get a lot of use out of oversized cardigans or sweaters.
Why? Because visitors will come and almost inevitably want pictures. When mamas are braless, exhausted, and covered only by a hospital gown and mesh panties/adult diapers, it’s not exactly the height of selfies.
Throwing on a big sweater can ease some of this discomfort. It also can ease the chills, since hospitals tend to be cool. In fact, MedicineNet lists the sweater as the number three thing to make sure patients bring with them for a hospital stay.
10 Extras... Of Everything
It might not seem economical, but get doubles or triples of everything needed for hygiene and personal care. Over at Scary Mommy, one woman tells the story of how she went to the bathroom only to realize too late that she left her bag of postpartum supplies on the table in the other room.
In order to avoid this, it helps to have whatever mama may need on hand close to every toilet she may frequent. Is it messy? Maybe it’s not the most organized looking feat. Should a new mom in the postpartum recovery period care? Not even a little.
Stock up on those pads, ice packs, and spray bottles before the big day.
9 Practice Swaddling
For a lot of first-time parents, swaddling seems like a weird thing to do to a newborn. They just got out of a cramped, tiny space, after all. That, however, is exactly the point. Babies cry a lot at the beginning of their lives (with the peak of crying not hitting until six weeks after birth).
In order to help calm babies with something familiar, swaddling does the trick.
BabyCenter says the technique can keep babies from startling themselves as well as helping a baby’s body maintain a warm body temperature until it can regulate on its own. For parents not experts at swaddling, little helpers called SwaddleMes can be a lifesaver.
8 Google It
Use at-hand resources and that downtime before baby joins the household to find a "new moms" group. These are different than playgroups since usually, all the kiddos are experiencing the fourth trimester. Motherhood Center says that women who engage with fellow moms in a group setting during that chaotic period feel more supported and more easily reach community resources, probably due to first-hand referrals.
These moms can relate with each other since their babies and their bodies are all in the same transition period.
Another added benefit is that people often make lifelong connections through these groups.
7 Use Those Smart Devices
Nowadays, people turn to their phones and tablets for nearly every problem or search for information. The fourth trimester is a time a new parent may want to "have an app for that".
One suggestion for new parents is the BabyCenter app that tracks a new baby’s progress and provides daily tips.
Doctor On Demand is another app, lauded by new parents. For the cost of $40, concerned parents can consult with a doctor via video conferencing. The doctor can see and hear the baby without Mom ever having to pack everything up and go out. These doctors can even write prescriptions as needed.
6 Go Ahead And Prepare To Caffeinate
Mamas may know that they’ll be tired but may underestimate exactly how tired they’ll be in those first few days and weeks at home with a newborn.
In the womb, babies are often more active at night when Mom is sleeping than during the day when Mom’s voice and movements lull them. This can lead to very disruptive nights for moms and dads who naturally sleep during this time.
If caffeine is needed in the morning, take heart. While Scary Mommy relates that a midwife once warned that any caffeine in a breastfeeding mother makes for a colicky baby, studies have shown that’s simply untrue. Less than one percent of the caffeine Mom ingests makes it into the breast milk. Most babies are fine with it.
5 The Slippery Stuff
The fourth trimester lasts until the baby is four months old. Moms are usually cleared to get back to healthy romantic physical activities with their partners after six weeks. Therefore, the transition once again into alone time with one's partner will take place during this time, too.
Miracle Physical Therapy suggests preparing for this by having some assistance on hand. They warn that a woman’s nether regions can be dry from breastfeeding, which reduces a woman’s estrogen levels. Dryness can equate to pain in an area that’s frankly been through a lot. Even if a couple hasn’t needed this assistance before, it’s better to be prepared.
4 Make A Game Plan
Parents who are going to live and parent together need to have a heart-to-heart about what each expects their responsibilities to be. This can help keep stress at a minimum in those first days at home. Sleeping Should Be Easy says that dads who get up at night with their children help moms not show such severe signs of sleep deprivation as well as boost morale and the sense of teamwork in the family.
Even for a mom and baby who’re attempting to breastfeed, Dad’s presence during the night (or pace feeding pumped bottles) can ease tension. Dads need to bond with babies too, a feat that is easier when he’s taking some of the care duties.
3 Find A Pediatrician
It seems unnecessary to have a pediatrician picked out before the baby is even here. Yet, it’s expected that parents will be able to name a pediatrician for their baby at the hospital either before or right after the birth. Parents says that Mama’s gyno is a great resource to tap for referrals to good pediatricians. Also, parents have the option to choose a family doctor or chiropractor versus a pediatrician.
It may be a good idea to see how these providers differ and who is closer to the family home. When there’s a fevered baby, it’s always more comforting to have a shorter drive to help.
2 Say Yes To Helpers
Whether it’s parents or in-laws, friends or neighbors, mamas need to do themselves a favor and accept a helping hand.
Human bodies do need rest and food. Mamas will still want to shower without worrying if the baby is crying, and couples still want to have a quiet word together. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be helping with childcare. If there are people out there offering to cook food, pay for a housekeeper for a month or so, or take on other duties, consider taking them up on the offer.
There will be chances to reciprocate later, and knowing that it’s too much all for one person or even one couple is healthy. Sarah Stewart Holland says that the help she accepted during her own fourth trimester eased her way into motherhood. No family nearby? Consider a postpartum doula.
1 Go Swimming
For an aching body in the middle of a weight-gaining phase, swimming may seem totally unwelcome. However, What To Expect advises moms to rethink that sentiment.
Swimming, being weightless in the water, has been shown to relieve pressure on maternal backs and bladders.
Swimming can also help with swelling since it pushes fluids from bodily tissues back into the veins (where it belongs). Morning sickness can be temporarily relieved by being submerged in cool water. Better than even all of that, swimming has been shown to increase a mother’s endurance during labor.