Just when you thought you could breathe easier after baby arrives get set for the all-too-crazy fourth trimester!

Just when you thought you could rest a little easier after giving birth, you suddenly enter a period known as the fourth trimester. This isn’t just a significant time of change for your newborn, it’s also an extreme roller-coaster ride for new mums.  

The fourth trimester is also referred to as the first three months postpartum,” explains Ong Hui Tze, a postpartum doula at Four Trimesters Pte Ltd. “This is a time with many changes for mothers physically and emotionally.  However, most mothers are probably giving all their attention to their baby and not thinking much about themselves!”

Since the fourth trimester affects you as much as your baby, it’s important to be prepared for the changes that will occur.

Here are essential facts all new mums should know about the first few months after welcoming your little one into the world.

This is a time with many changes for mothers physically and emotionally. However, most mothers are probably giving all their attention to their baby and not thinking much about themselves!”

1. Your body will take some time to recuperate

“The body has changed tremendously during the 10 months of pregnancy, labour and birth,” Ong states. “As such, we cannot expect it to bounce right back to how it was pre-pregnancy.”

Scrolling through social media during this time can be demoralising, too, since it often shows celebrity mums getting back in shape within a month of giving birth. “Mothers may feel devastated that they still look a few months pregnant after having a child, or are not as fit as before,” Ong explains.

As tempting as it may be to jump back into your exercise routine, do bear in mind that your body (especially the pelvic-floor muscles) needs time to get back into shape. Walks are fine, but avoid weight lifting, running and high-intensity exercises, Ong advises.

2. Postpartum depression real and it needs to be addressed

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a general term, and there are different types of it,” says Ong. “It is important to know the signs and symptoms of the various types of PPD. These include frequent crying, feelings of incompetence, a loss of appetite and insomnia.”

Ong also notes how it is usually the husband who recognises PPD before the wife does, and that husbands, too, can suffer from PPD.

“PPD does not necessarily take place immediately post-birth, it’s quite common for mums to be diagnosed with PPD even after the fourth trimester,” she points out. “It could even surface six to 24 months post-birth, or even longer after that.”

Aside from PPD, other postpartum disorders which some mothers may experience include obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, psychosis, post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder.

3. Your hormones and emotions may be out of whack

Having a baby is definitely an emotional journey, thanks to the adrenaline rush of giving birth, breastfeeding issues, the joy of holding your baby and the much-dreaded sleep deprivation.

“Because of the hormonal changes happening to your body, a mother can be joyful at one moment, then suddenly moody and overwhelmed the next,” Ong says.

She continues, “Baby blues are common for most new mothers, and often happen one week after the baby is born. This is also due to hormonal changes, with mums having doubts about being a good parent. It usually goes away with good postpartum support.”

During this trying period, don’t feel ashamed or try to hide your feelings. Talk to your family and friends, and try to get help as soon as possible even professional help, if need be.

4. A good support system is essential

It’s common for mums to focus on the material stuff, like getting a baby cot, stroller and other practical essentials, Ong says. However, the need for a good support system is often overlooked.

Many new mums may also try to do everything on their own. After all, the idea of being a “super-mum” sounds attractive and desirable. But keep in mind that doing things solo only sets you up for burnout.

“We don’t need to be a superwoman and brace motherhood all by ourselves,” Ong urges. “There is nothing wrong with seeking help when you want someone to carry the baby for you, while you take a well-deserved rest. “

You can tap your spouse, grandparents, relatives, and even fellow new mums who have valuable tips to share. You may want to consider engaging a postpartum doula as well, to help you with breastfeeding, baby and mummy care.

“Remember, it takes a village to raise a child,” Ong points out. “Getting the right support will help a mother feel good and confident, and thus enjoy motherhood better.”

“Due to the hormonal changes happening to your body, a mother can be joyful at one moment, then suddenly moody and overwhelmed the next,” says Ong.

5. Postpartum complications may be serious

While some postpartum complications may be common, don’t take them lightly. Discuss common postpartum health issues  with your doctor and learn which require urgent medical attention. Postpartum complications include:  

* Mastitis or breast abscess An infection of the breast.

* Lochia Postpartum bleeding which occurs after both vaginal and surgical birth.

* Diaphoresis Profuse sweating.

* Urine incontinence.

* Diuresis Frequent urination.

* Vaginal tears.

* Excessive bleeding as parts of the placenta are retained in the uterus.

6. Self-care is not selfish

“Everybody needs to understand that our body and mind go through a lot of changes postpartum,” Ong says. “We should not neglect nourishing ourselves. Little things like going for a short walk, having a nap or two in the day, getting a postnatal massage and spending some time alone will give you strength to enjoy each day better.”

And relax, the laundry can wait!  Don’t be too stressed up with what you or your baby should be accomplishing. It’s okay to take things one step at a time, and enjoy every moment with your little bundle of joy.

“Once you let go of some of your own expectations and go with the flow of things, you will feel some weight lifted off your shoulders,” Ong encourages.

7. Read up so that you can tackle challenges

“Very often, new parents face challenges with breastfeeding or don’t know how to soothe a fussy baby,” Ong notes. “Consequently, well-meaning family and friends may give too much or conflicting advice, which causes distress to the new mother.”

As such, bone up on breastfeeding and babycare tips. Attend antenatal classes, read up or join breastfeeding support groups.

If your mentality is to “leave it to fate” or “see how”, you are more likely to be clueless about solving baby-related problems, Ong warns. Therefore, empower yourself with the right knowledge and skills, so you are confident in tackling common challenges that new parents face after baby arrives.

Photos: iStock

Like us on Facebook and check SmartParents regularly for the latest reads!

Other top reads

Ways to get over a traumatic-delivery

4 ways to protect your marriage after kids

Why pointing is an important milestone for baby