Recently, I was quoted in a BabyCenter article that discusses the challenges of what’s known as the “4th-trimester” – the first three months after delivery. Recent studies have shown that a large percentage of new moms experience anxiety or depression after giving birth, as well as feel overwhelmed, concerned about their health, and even embarrassed about what their bodies are going through post-birth. I’d like to share some more insights on this topic, as I feel it is extremely important for all new moms to be aware of what the 4th trimester may entail and have a plan to take care of themselves during this time.
What You Should Know About the 4th-Trimester
Every woman will have a different postpartum experience. The 4th-trimester may leave you feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, or depressed, or leave you with physical symptoms such as trouble sleeping or controlling your bladder. All of these can be part of your normal experience. Although things like these are not out of the ordinary, it is important to be able to identify whether these experiences are crossing the line of normalcy- for example, the baby blues vs clinical depression. Postpartum depression is seen in one in nine new mothers, and if it reaches its most severe state, it can be life-threatening to a mother and her baby.
Healthcare System Faults
One of the main reasons that 4th-trimester issues are often overlooked is because there is no routine physical examination that focuses on this stage in a mother’s life. Even as a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist, I learned close to nothing about this particular time as I worked to become a doctor. The vast majority of our healthcare dollars and resources are not spent on women’s health, which I feel can be attributed to the biases of our current healthcare system. Our system tends to focus on the disease rather than health, wellness, and prevention, and when research is done, it favors males rather than women and children. Keeping in mind the maternal mortality rate of black women, there is clearly a long way to go in terms of giving women the attention and care they need after delivery.
Taking Care of Yourself Post-Delivery
Although it can be intimidating to learn about how difficult the 4th trimester can be, there’s no use in keeping information from new mothers and pretending that everything will go perfectly once they leave the hospital. Many of our antiquated healthcare practices do not respect patient autonomy and intelligence. They write the idea of informing new mothers about the 4th trimester off as too overwhelming. This should never be the case- I encourage you to ask your doctor any and all questions you have about what the time after delivery tends to entail. Never be afraid to ask whatever is on your mind! The more informed you are, the more prepared you’ll be for whatever happens once your baby is born.
I can’t stress enough the fact that you should always seek help if you are having trouble navigating the 4th trimester. Whether this involves talking to your doctor or significant other, reaching out to support groups in person or online, or even seeing a therapist, never try to get through it all on your own. You should start building a support network before your baby is born, so you’re prepared and ready for this next stage in your life. There is no one-size-fits-all solution- you’ll need to be open about your individual circumstances so that whoever you seek support from is able to help you to the best of their abilities.
Whether you’ve already given birth, are currently pregnant, or are trying to conceive, it’s never too early to start seeking out information about the 4th trimester. It is just as important to know about this “stage” of pregnancy than any other, so I encourage you to reach out and contact me if you have any questions or concerns. I am passionate about keeping women informed about what they can expect from pre-conception to post-delivery, and I’d love to do anything I can to make you feel more at ease about what you can expect once your baby is born.