22 Jan IV Trimester of Pregnancy – Postpartum Time
I remember from my own experience that birth seemed to me as the “Day zero”, which I have waited and prepared for as if it was the end of the world, explosion of a nuclear bomb, the happy end!
I was so overwhelmed with preparing myself for that day that I forgot about, what’s next?
Officially, pregnancy comprises of three trimesters, in other words, 9 months.
First trimester encompasses first 12 weeks, when the implantation and stabilisation of pregnancy takes place. Second trimester is the period in which the baby develops rapidly, between 13 and 25 weeks of pregnancy. Third trimester, from 26th to 40th week of pregnancy, is the time when both the woman’s organism and the baby are preparing for birth.
Each trimester is different and influences baby’s development and future mom’s physical as well as psychological wellbeing in a different way.
After three trimesters of pregnancy, finally the long-awaited day of birth comes.
After the birth I understood that life goes on and there’s still time to finish what I haven’t been able to do before my son was born.
I also realised that my body and mind did not come back to normal immediately. Things were hard for me and I felt sad. Throughout pregnancy, I was cared for by a doctor and a midwife but after I gave birth, I felt like I have delivered the baby “produced by my body” and I wasn’t supposed to need anything else. I had one doctor’s visit after the postpartum period, on which the doctor told me that the stitched wound on my perineum looks awful and that I have been mutilated for the rest of my life, and that was it…
No one told me back then that what I am feeling is normal and that the postpartum period is one of the phases of pregnancy.
If I knew what is going on with myself, my baby and my family, it would have been much easier.
Now I know that the time after birth is equally important to pregnancy. It is a time of finishing the wonderful period of creating life. It is the postpartum period.
What is postpartum?
In definition, postpartum period lasts for the first 6 weeks (40 days) after birth. It is the time of physical regeneration for a woman. During this time, the body and the whole organism of a woman slowly begins to come back to its pre-pregnancy state.
What happens in the life of a woman during postpartum?
During the postpartum period, a woman’s organism begins to regenerate. Uterus contracts, coming back to its pre-pregnancy state. Cervix closes and around 10th day postpartum is in a similar state to which it was in before birth. Up until about 6 weeks after birth the woman bleeds, excreting the leftover uterine lining. The place where the placenta has been attached for the duration of pregnancy heals. Lactation sets off and after 3 to 5 days after birth the woman is already producing transitional milk, which will then lead to the production of mature milk. If the woman is not breastfeeding, ovaries activate and first menstruation may occur even after 5 or 6 weeks after birth.
Besides physical changes, the woman undergoes an emotional storm, too.
After birth, hormones that were produced and kept on a high level during pregnancy, suddenly plummet. Because of that, the woman is very sensitive emotionally, she may feel sad, down and disappointed. If she’s not aware of the reasons of this state, it might be even harder to get over it. Additionally, common medical interventions in birth, such as artificial induction of labour, administration of sedatives and artificial hormones (artificial oxytocin, often called Pitocin or Syntocin), may negatively influence the time of regeneration after birth. After a dose of chemical substances and artificial hormones, natural reactions of the body are lowered and it is harder for it to adapt and produce accurate levels of natural hormones that ensure a quicker regeneration and better sense of wellbeing.
In fact, the postpartum period is a time not only for the woman to regenerate, but also for the newborn, who not only adapts to its new environment, but needs to regenerate after birth, too.
The postpartum period is also important for the baby’s father or the woman’s partner and possibly for older siblings.
What happens with a newborn during postpartum period?
The baby experiences birth very intensively. As adults, we don’t remember being born but the experience stays in our subconscious. After 9 months of comfortable conditions in mom’s belly, the baby needs those six weeks to adapt to the new environment.
What happens with the baby’s father or the woman’s partner in the postpartum period?
We don’t realise that a man also experiences the time after birth as intense. In his nature, parenting instincts are waking up. His task is to provide his partner, his baby and the whole family with safety and comfort. He also needs time to adapt, focus on his new challenges and bonding with the baby.
What happens with older siblings in the postpartum period?
It doesn’t matter how old are the siblings. Saying hello to their little sister or brother and getting to accept them is also very emotional for them. Often, the parents notice that older siblings are jealous, but they don’t realise that what they’re seeing is actually anxiety about losing their position in mom’s and dad’s life.
The fourth trimester, which is in fact the last quarter of pregnancy – the postpartum period and in fact an integral part of pregnancy – is as intense and important as the other trimesters.
It is worth to prepare yourself and your close ones for this time and to be aware and patient.
How to prepare for the postpartum period?
Just as you prepare for birth, prepare for the postpartum period, too. Plan it wisely. Of course, we can’t predict how it will be when the baby is born, but we can organise support for ourselves for the postpartum period: meals, groceries and cleaning. The most important thing though is to accept that the 40 days after birth are free from plans, meetings, events. This is the time for rest and regeneration not only for the woman, but also for all other members of the family.
How can a woman prepare for the postpartum period?
The most important thing that a woman should provide herself with is regeneration. Giving birth is exhausting not only on the physical level, but also emotionally. A woman after giving birth should concentrate on her baby to provide it with closeness, calm and food. The best thing during this time is having as much rest as possible.
Ideally, the woman can sleep with the baby between feedings, lie down as much as possible and be able to only care for the baby. Cooking, doing groceries or cleaning should be transferred to another person.
How can the father, the partner prepare for the postpartum period?
The role of the partner is very important during this time and is not limited only to helping in housework, but comprises mainly taking care of the woman and baby, ensuring safety and support. For the father, it is also a very important time of adaptation, forming a relationship with the baby and waking up fatherhood.
If the partner can take a holiday from work and stay at home with woman and baby, he will provide himself and his family with lots of calm and comfort.
How to prepare older siblings for the postpartum period?
For older siblings, postpartum is also an unforgettable time. It is good to prepare them for the postpartum period, explaining how will it go about with the whole family, how mom can feel after birth.
To make them aware that they are a part of this event and even engage them in daily chores.
How to prepare close family and friends?
The postpartum period should be devoted to regeneration, bonding and peace and that’s why it is a good idea to prepare family and friends to how are we planning on spending it. Tell them in advance when will you, as a family, be ready for visits and don’t feel guilty if you refuse to invite guests just after giving birth. If you inform your friends in advance that you’ll be ready for their visits after some time, surely they will understand it and they may turn out happy that they don’t have to consider it on their own.
You may also decide on a specific time of a visit, for example:
“Dear friends, we would like to invite you to visit us and our baby after 4 weeks from birth. Unfortunately, we can’t predict the times of feeding and sleeping of the baby and mom, therefore we will be ready for an hour-long visit tops”.
Is asking for help a good idea?
If the family can afford it, a postpartum doula would be ideal. This is a woman who takes care of the household chores and knows how to help a woman regenerate after birth. This person will prepare adequate meals for postpartum, do a massage (if you want to), listen to and support the family. Contact postnatalsupportnetwork.com who will help you find a suitable person for you.
We can also ask for help from our friends or family. It is an amazing gift for a postpartum family to bring them a warm meal, bring groceries or clean something in the house. Such a gesture can mean much more than buying another onesie for the baby.
The postpartum period is referred to as the fourth trimester of pregnancy because it is the closing part of the whole process. Let’s not forget nor ignore such an important part of parenting.