How can couples prepare for the fourth trimester / the first 12 weeks after birth?

By Aliza Carr  30 June 2021 

Image courtesy of Aliza Carr

The fourth trimester

Many new mamas or mamas to be are unfamiliar with this term.

The fourth trimester, known as the first 12 weeks after birth, is often the most challenging yet most overlooked period when having a baby.  From the moment you find out you are pregnant, you and your partner start to prepare yourselves for the most significant and magical change that is bringing new life into the world. From choosing a pram to decorating the nursery and attending birthing classes, there is a lot of time, energy, and often money spent, on making way for this precious new bundle of joy. While all of these aspects are exciting, we want to chat through what the fourth trimester might hold for you. 

The postpartum period is such a unique point in time and is a vastly different experience for each new family. Although a unique and precious period of time, it can also be overwhelming and filled with mixed emotions. 

For a lot of new parents, you may experience a love like you have never felt before. However, the bond can take time to grow and develop for other new families - both are absolutely okay. 

Understanding the physiological changes that your body will endure through pregnancy and birth can empower you as you get closer to your due date. 

Your body is changing again physically and emotionally. Your new baby is also adjusting to life outside the womb, while your partner is also transitioning to their new parenting role. Depending on how your baby was born, your body and mind’s recovery time can also vary. Give yourself grace and as much self-love as possible. 

While the fourth trimester can be different for everyone, simple things like having discussions with your partner during pregnancy can make a huge difference. Once the adrenaline wears off of your little one finally being earthside, sleep deprivation and isolation of being a new mum can start to creep in. Having awareness around these possible feelings can help you identify them early, which I am very passionate about as a midwife. 

It is beneficial to talk to your partner about how you will handle the fourth trimester and acknowledge that it won’t all be smooth sailing as you both navigate your new roles with your baby in arms. Recognising, when and where you can help each other will allow you to be the best team cheering each other on. 

Things to discuss with your partner during pregnancy can include:

  • How will you both deal with sleep deprivation, what are some ways to support each other through this period?
  • The role of grandparents and boundaries
  • Night waking and feeds
  • How to manage self-care for both of you
  • How to recognise if your mental health isn’t right, how to talk about it, and strategies to cope as well as community resources to reach out to when you needed it
  • Non-working downtime and a day to day schedule 
  • How to build a support network, who to let in, in what circumstances and boundaries 
  • Partner's role in daily routine, even if they return to work.

While these discussions can't magically fix the reality of having a newborn, they hope to give you and your partner insight into how you will manage when times are tough, even the slightest thing can make a massive change!

  • Other strategies for negativing the fourth trimester include:
  • Having frozen meals in the freezer - prepping these during pregnancy can be a lifesaver!
  • A support network you are happy to call and lean upon when you need (joining mothers groups / prenatal classes is a great way to meet other new mamas)
  • A strategy (if breastfeeding) just isn’t going to plan and resources available in your community should you needed them (Australian Breastfeeding Association is a great place to start!)
  • Having a list of hotlines, you can call at any time of the day for support, including mental health hotlines (see below for some suggestions)
  • Setting small daily goals such as showering or getting out for a walk with the baby/or without the baby.
  • Have family/friends help with chores (if you can afford to, hiring a cleaner for those first few weeks is magic!)
  • Try to have a small amount of time each day, where you can sit with your partner and chat through your day, time to connect and debrief

Here in Australia and New Zealand, we are very fortunate to have many different health professionals in the wider community, so never be afraid to reach out to a medical health professional should you or your partner feel the need. You are never alone in this journey, even if it sometimes feels like it.
Like anything in life, you aren’t going to enjoy every minute of the fourth trimester! Remember each day is different from the next; this time with your new baby and family are precious (but equally overwhelming). I always like to remind mamas - everything has its season, and this too shall pass, even on the hardest of days. So do yourself a favour and think about preparing for this trimester also. 
Be kind to yourself always, you have got this Mama.

Some free resources for mental health in the perinatal period. Click on each to learn more. 

  1. PANDA
  2. Gidget Foundation
  3. Beyond Blue 

Aliza CarrWritten by midwife and perinatal mental health specialist, Aliza Carr, from Bumpnbub

Qiara is a family of breastmilk isolated probiotics for pregnancy, breastfeeding, infant, kid and adult. Supporting lifelong gut health with our awarded brand, most highly rated “Vitamin and Supplement” for Mum at @TellmebabyAU 2020 and 2021. Evidence-based for 7 health outcomes including : reducing mild mastitis, restore gut flora after antibiotic recovery, restoring good bacteria after csection, supporting immunity, improve good bacteria growth and supporting gastrointestinal health. Read over 2000 brand reviews and probiotic insights @Qiaraprobiotics : Buy online