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What is the Fourth Trimester?

The Fourth Trimester is a relatively new term, describing the 3 months after your baby is born. However, it has always been associated with the baby; we are told that due to a baby’s head size we give birth before full gestation and, therefore, our child needs the Fourth Trimester to truly be prepared for the world. We are also told that colic usually lasts 12 weeks and that babies stop being newborn after this time. But this focus on the baby misses the real point of the Fourth Trimester. Here is why I think Western society has it all wrong:

Women are offered support, love and care throughout pregnancy but as soon as we give birth all that focus is diverted to the baby. Whilst our baby is worthy of all this attention, our society has forgotten how to nurture the postnatal mum; this leaves her exhausted from birth, sleep deprived and sometimes physically or emotionally traumatised.

I personally experienced postpartum burn out after the birth of my first child so I know why and how new parents ignore their own bodies when it needs nurture and nourishment the most. Firstly, it is assumed that post birth the hard work is done. But, for a woman, labour is one of the biggest physical challenges our body will go through. Our hormones are spiking. From the time the placenta is birthed to when breast milk comes in, a woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels plummet to the levels of a menopausal woman. The process of hormonal rebalancing goes on for months causing mood shifts and extreme highs and lows. And our brains change. That is right; activity increases in regions that control empathy, social interaction and, crucially, anxiety. (It is interesting to know that a man’s brain also changes when he is involved in caregiving so this isn’t just for new mums!)

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