If you’re on social media, you may have come across an Instagram post or a conversation about the “fourth trimester” – the time immediately after you deliver your baby. But what does that mean for a postpartum mama/birthing person? Let’s chat about it.
What is the Fourth Trimester?
The fourth trimester extends to 12 weeks post delivery. It is a period of transition and recovery; an opportune time for rehabilitation. Your wounds heal, your organs settle back into their spots; you not only recover from the delivery, but from growing and carrying a human for the last ~40 weeks.
Many women will report symptoms during this time frame including incontinence, sexual dysfunction, fatigue, depression, and mid to low back pain. It is common to have a variety of sensations and symptoms during this time period, and the goal here is to progressively decrease your symptoms and feel better and more like yourself.
Physical therapy interventions during this critical period may help alleviate these conditions through conservative, low risk treatments, with the goal of improving overall well-being and preventing long-term health concerns.
How does Movement Play Into the Fourth Trimester?
The fourth trimester is also a time where women benefit from gentle reintroduction to movement. Start with deep diaphragmatic breaths, then progress to walking within comfortable limits, and gentle stretching as tolerated. Once you’ve been cleared by your healthcare provider to return to exercise, you can integrate safe and progressive postnatal workouts, such as strength training or yoga.
How does Nutrition Play a Role in the Fourth Trimester?
It is also important that you nourish your body during this time. Eat nutrient-dense foods, stay hydrated, and talk to your healthcare provider about strategies to prevent or reduce constipation. A squatty potty is one example of a tool that can help with bowel movements and constipation. For more individualized nutrition support, speak to a registered dietitian who can help you optimize your nutrition during this period of time.
What About S*x?!
What happens when you are cleared and feel ready to return to intercourse?! For starters, you might want to try using a water-based lubricant, such as Slippery Stuff. You can also speak to a pelvic health therapist for tips to ease back into intercourse postpartum.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, understand and respect that your body is being asked to do a lot during this time. You are physiologically recovering while adjusting to #momlife.
If you’re currently pregnant, work with your providers to help set yourself up for a supported fourth trimester. This conversation can include developing a postpartum plan of care to address physical, social, and psychological components of health.
For any questions about your pregnancy or the postpartum period, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Note: This post is for educational purposes only and does not replace medical advice or treatment from your healthcare provider. Always follow the advice of your primary care provider when making decisions about your health and well-being.