The Fourth Trimester
The Postnatal Period
Postnatal, postpartum or the fourth trimester, is the first 12 weeks of your baby’s life and your new life as a mum. It’s the period in which your baby adjusts to life on the outside and you begin to recover from nine months of pregnancy, the physical trauma of labour whilst coming to terms with the reality (shock) that your life will never be the same again.
New mums are surrounded by so many pressures, to feel good, to look good, to have a baby who sleeps well, feeds well, settles well. We expect these things to happen overnight, with our frantic pace of life. Add to this pressure hormonal changes and sleep deprivation and it’s no wonder that so many new mums really struggle in those first few months.
Even though giving birth is a “natural occurrence” , the physical trauma of pregnancy and birth is huge! Oestrogen levels reach a peak in the third trimester, and drop drastically in the 24 hours post labour. If you decide to breast feed, your oestrogen levels remain low and you may experience, night sweats, hot flashes, anxiety, depression, fatigue and insomnia. You may get the newborn blues and find yourself being quite emotional in the first few weeks. This is mainly caused by huge changes in your hormone levels. The usual symptoms last for a few days post-partum and include feeling weepy, grumpy and miserable. If your symptoms continue, consult your midwife or GP as you may be experiencing Postnatal Depression.
It’s perfectly normal to feel lonely, low or up and down when you’ve had a baby. We’ve all been there, I promise you. Getting that elusive ‘rest’ can help. Ask for help from friends and family. Whether it be to run around with the Hoover, make dinner, bring food parcels, change babies nappy, or just to allow you to have a few hours on undisturbed sleep.
Focusing on good nutrition during this time is not only vital for the production of breast milk, but also to support the recovery from birth, restoration of hormonal imbalance, and to replenish diminished nutrient stores.Maintaining your blood sugar levels during this time has been shown to support post-natal mood. When our levels become unstable, anxious and depressive tendencies maybe aggravated and worsened.
It is important that you take care of yourself as well as your baby in the months following childbirth. As soon as possible post delivery, book yourself in for regular postnatal treatments, such as massage and reflexology. Baby can come too, it’s an ideal time to feed, have skin on skin, some bonding time for you both. Baby can continue to come with you until you are ready to leave them to enjoy some “me time” on your own.
Research suggests that postpartum massage or reflexology benefits include emotional and mental health support, hormone regulation, reduced swelling, better sleep and improved breastfeeding. Helping to restore your body to its pre-pregnancy condition, speeds healing and assists with C-section recovery.