Congratulations! Your baby is finally here and you’re embracing motherhood. While the joy of welcoming your little one can be overwhelming, the postpartum period, or ‘fourth trimester’, comes with its own challenges. Here are some tips on tackling the physical and emotional symptoms you might be experiencing right now.
What is the Fourth Trimester?
The fourth trimester covers the first three months after childbirth. It’s a phase where your body and mind both need time to recover from birth and adjust to your new role. Here are some common symptoms you may face during this period:
Postpartum bleeding: This is to be expected and will be heavy at first but will taper off. For much-needed comfort, stock up on maternity pads and big ‘granny’ pants. (Trust us, you’ll be glad you did!) If you’ve had a C-Section, look for high-waisted pants which won’t irritate your healing wound. For night-time protection, use a mattress protector on your bed in case of spotting.
Perineal soreness: You are quite likely to have bruising and soreness in the perineal area post-birth. Check out My Expert Midwife’s ‘Spritz for Bits’ spray, which contains witch hazel and essential oils to help with healing. (Pack it in your hospital bag in readiness). For added coolness and relief, try making our ‘Padsicle’. You won’t regret it!
Breast changes: Even if you are not breastfeeding, you will most likely experience engorged breasts 3-5 days after birth. Your breasts will feel hard and swollen due to increased blood flow and milk supply and can cause discomfort. To help relieve engorgement, you can express the milk, using a breast pump or manual expression (using your hands). If you are feeding, this will pass quickly. If not, your breasts will stop producing milk in a few days.
You may also experience sore nipples when feeding so check with your nurse or breastfeeding consultant that your baby is ‘latching on’ properly.
Hormonal fluctuations: Your hormones will continue to fluctuate during the fourth trimester, which can lead to mood swings, night sweats, and hair loss. This is temporary and will pass. For night sweats, use a mattress protector which can be washed easily. If you are worried about hair loss, remember that this only happens to about 10% of women and when it does, you are just losing the ‘extra’ hair you grew during pregnancy.
It’s quite normal to experience a rollercoaster of emotions after childbirth. Here are some symptoms:
Baby blues: It’s common to experience mood swings, irritability, and moments of sadness shortly after giving birth. These baby blues usually subside within a few weeks but if they persist, talk to your GP about it.
Postpartum depression (PPD): A more severe form of emotional distress, PPD can occur in some women and may require professional intervention. Reach out to your healthcare provider if you experience persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or hopelessness.
Fatigue and sleep deprivation: Sleepless nights can leave you feeling exhausted and emotionally drained. Prioritize rest and enlist support from your partner or loved ones to help with baby care. Nobody is meant to do this on their own so it’s ok to ask for help.
Here are some tips to help you transition to your new role as a parent:
- If possible, sleep whenever your baby sleeps to help combat fatigue.
- Eat nourishing meals and stay hydrated to support your body’s recovery.
- Engage in light activities, such as postpartum yoga or walking, to promote healing and improve your mood.
Ask for help with household chores or childcare so that you can focus on self-care and bonding with your baby. Most family and friends will be more than happy to lend a hand and give you a little time out when you need it.
Seek out local or online communities where you can connect with other new mums and share experiences. This can provide a valuable support system. As the saying goes “It takes a village to raise a child.” So don’t feel you have to go it alone.
Implement a loose routine for feeding, sleeping, and self-care. This can bring structure to your day. Something that’s important during maternity leave.
Communicate with your partner. This is a time of wonder and discovery for you both so treasure each moment with your little one. Share responsibilities and work together to ensure both of you have time for self-care and rest.
Talk openly with your family, friends, or healthcare provider about your feelings. This can help to alleviate any anxiety or stress you may be experiencing.
Finally, go easy on yourself. Babies don’t come with an instruction manual, and everyone’s parenting style varies. So, embrace the challenges and remember that you are doing your best. You’ve got this.
Next article: Taking care of your post-childbirth body
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