What is the fourth trimester?

The first 12 weeks with a newborn can be some of the most exciting and wonderful, yet also exhausting and challenging. Both you and your baby are making huge transitions and are learning from each other each step of the way. While giving birth is the end of your pregnancy journey, many health care providers claim that a mother’s physical and emotional experience is just beginning. The physical and emotional levels in your life as a new mom may take a huge toll when making new adjustments and managing a new life with your baby. This period of postpartum (after giving birth) can be referred to as the “fourth trimester.”

What is the fourth trimester?

The fourth trimester is the period between birth and 12 weeks postpartum during which you are adjusting to your baby and your own body changes, while your baby is also adjusting to life outside the womb. Additionally, your baby will be growing, changing and developing during this period and will need extra attention from you. As you move through this critical period, you’ll notice how much effort you will need to give to yourself and your child so both of you are able to adapt well to the new changes.

What can you expect during the fourth trimester?

During the fourth trimester, your baby goes through many physical changes in just a couple of months. Your baby will learn how to do movements such as lifting its head, bringing its head and feet to its mouth and trying to grasp objects. Your baby’s senses will still be developing, as they try to recognize sounds and faces around them. At the end of this stage, your baby should begin to become social and, hopefully, be used to the changes outside of the womb.

For moms, you can expect your body to recover from childbirth. There may be several physical changes that can take weeks or even months for your body to fully heal. Your moods can be either up or down and you may have a hard time seeking time to yourself to heal both your body and mind. Orienting yourself into a brand-new life can be difficult and an immersive experience, but make sure to periodically take time for yourself here and there.

Every new mom’s fourth trimester is different. Adjusting during this period will be easier in knowing what to expect and how to cope with the new changes, such as:

  • Breastfeeding your baby
  • Risks such as postpartum eclampsia
  • Postpartum mood changes
  • Routine care after delivery
  • Importance of postpartum examinations
  • Postpartum birth control options

Preparing for life with your baby after giving birth will make it easier to navigate your way through the fourth trimester and understand what type of care you and your baby need during this stage.

Do you have questions about the fourth trimester, or want to talk to someone about what to expect? UofL Physicians – OB/GYN & Women’s Health is here to help. To schedule an appointment, call 502-588-4400.