All things Fourth Trimester: You, your baby and your body.
Welcoming your babe into this world, is no simple task. Conceiving, pregnancy and birth are all momentous achievements in their own right. As we now enter the fourth trimester and the journey of this new life begins, our lives will forever remain altered.
For the last 9 months or so, we have put so much time and effort into outfits, nurseries, reading, research and comparative studies to find THE BEST pram, carseat and highchair. All the while capturing the bump pics and trying to keep up with the day-to-day.
Since having Indie and creating Wild Indiana (starting with our playgyms), I have noticed a growing emphasis on the postpartum period and the fourth trimester. With the emphasis being placed on slowing down and embracing the newborn haze. So, I recently had a chat with Maddie, mama and midwife, from @goldenandwilde_ on all things postpartum, fourth trimester and newborns.
First things first - tell us a little about yourself and why you became a midwife?
I can remember the day my younger brother came home and being absolutely fascinated that my mum had just had a baby.
So when I began my career as a nurse, my first interest was in neonatal medicine. Yet, after completing my initial degree, I entered a new graduate program and rotated through surgical nursing and palliative care. Whilst in this area I was encouraged by a few colleagues to do my Graduate Midwifery Diploma. At the time I had just given birth to my eldest daughter and was in my final year of the graduate program - so the thought of completing another degree was daunting!
However, I had felt very inspired by my own midwife who provided me with nurturing care during my pregnancy and birth with eldest daughter, I was very lucky to have been apart of Midwifery Group Practice.
My experience left me feeling driven to be able to provide women and birthing persons with the same continuity of care.
Throughout pregnancy and as we prepare for baby's birth our bodies undergo a huge transition. What exactly is the postpartum period and how long does it last?
However, not many new mums know that they are about to be reborn as a mother - and that they need as much support to be held in the postpartum period too. The fourth trimester is the first twelve weeks following the delivery of Bub, however it takes 18 months to heal from birth.
In those first twelve weeks both mother and baby are undergoing huge transitions. For mum the uterus is involuting back to a smaller size, breasts are making milk, hormones are undulating and dropping, muscles are healing and even the brain changes to adapt to motherhood.
We are also running on limited sleep, whilst recovering and caring for a new baby who is adjusting to life outside of the womb where they need womb like comforts such as swaddling, baby wearing and movement.
As a midwife and educator the recognition and trend towards a nourished postpartum and slow fourth trimester is definitely one I am excited to see become the norm.
What is postpartum support and why is it essential for every Mama?
Postpartum support is essential to help mums THRIVE during the postpartum period rather than just "survive". The fourth trimester can be an incredibly isolating time, simple activities of daily life like a shower can be hard to achieve in those early days of motherhood.
Postpartum support can include things like a meal train, dropping off groceries, taking pets for a walk, taking bigger kids out for the day, coming over to clean etc.
We all know that hormones play a pivotal role in pregnancy, birth and beyond. Can you break this down for us?
So many hormones are affected in the body during pregnancy.
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG): This is the only hormone we make during pregnancy and it is made by the placenta (fun fact: also the only organ a human can grow). HCG rises during the first trimester and then settles when the placenta completely takes over. They play a pivotal role in nausea and vomiting. It's also what is screened for in an at-home pregnancy test and used to confirm pregnancy via blood tests.
Estrogen: Formed in the ovaries and is also made by the placenta to help maintain a pregnancy.
Progesterone: Also made by the ovaries and prepares the lining of the uterus for a little egg to implant. This hormone can also be the one that makes you feel a bit yucky and bloated.
Prolactin: A hormone made by the pituitary gland, and yep! you might have clued in to the "lact" part as in lactation - this hormone helps the breasts to grow and produce milk. It is also responsible for new hair growth like on your belly and other weird places!
Relaxin: This plays a huge role in the process of reproduction, it rises after ovulation and helps the body get ready for pregnancy. During pregnancy it helps relax bones, muscles and ligaments in the joints to prepare for labour.
Oxytocin: Made in the hypothalamus, the love hormone, secreted by the pituitary gland this hormone helps with labour and bonding.
These are only a few hormones that play pivotal roles in supporting pregnancy and lactation.
So, what can we expect post-birth and are there any red flags we can keep an eye out for?
You can expect that post-birth, around days 3-4, these hormones will once again go through a huge shift. Similar to the hormone drop women have during menopause. This is known as the baby blues, the estrogen that supported pregnancy has now dropped and it is suspected that this contributes to feelings of anxiousness and sadness.
If you have the baby blues it may be reassuring to know that symptoms do usually go away after a few days without needing treatment. However affirmations, support from loved ones and others around you can be very helpful. If you feel those symptoms are unchanged, it is important to let your partner or support network know.
There are so many amazing support services like GIDGET FOUNDATION, PANDA and BEYOND BLUE that will support you, your GP or health professional can also help you if you are developing symptoms of anxiety or depression. It is so important to know that depression and anxiety need specific treatment that will support your own wellbeing and that of your newborn Bub.
We have spoken about Mums fourth trimester and postpartum, but what about Bub's? When does the transition from newborn to infant occur? What can we do to prepare for this transition and how do we support our baby's development?
The newborn days seems to go slow and accelerate all in one day, before you know it you little one is well and truly an infant and growing rapidly.
The first 12 weeks your bub is considered to be a newborn, there are a lot of things you can incorporate into your daily routine to help your babies development and guide them into infancy.
There are some great support networks like your local early childhood centre which can help you along the journey of parenthood up until your little one turns five.
When my daughter Marigold was born we started tummy time every day for a few minutes to avoid plagiocephaly (uneven head shape) and enhance vestibular development. Starting tummy time early can help with milestones such as rolling, crawling and good head control.
We used a beautiful mat and playgym from Wild Indiana, during tummy time using visual cues also helps with eye development, I also loved that my eldest daughter could help with tummy time.
What is the importance to you of connecting Mums-to-be and Mamas to their villages? How did this lead to you beginning @goldenandwilde_?
During the years where the pandemic gripped our every day life, I saw as a midwife, the village truely change. As a midwife I have spent countless nights sitting on the bed with a new mum in tears. Because their partner had to be sent home, or their parents who may have lived overseas at the time had no way of meeting their new grandchild.
It broke my heart to see this happening, as a midwife some of my favourite moments are when a new big sister or brother meet their new sibling, yet during the pandemic there was no "family" or "continuity".
I started @goldenandwilde_, my passion project as a way to connect mums to their virtual village and enhance midwifery education.
Maddie, thank you so much for sharing your insight with us today - I've learnt things I never knew about hormones- bodies are truely amazing vessels!
Mama, I hope that this time together has given you added insight into the postpartum period and why it is important to accept help throughout the fourth trimester. As we mentioned above if for any reason you feel you may be experiencing anxiety or depression throughout any part of pregnancy or post-birth please reach out to your partner or any of the services listed above - you Mama are amazing and so loved!
18 months? That’s incredible how we don’t even realize it, focusing on the baby – I guess. I know the 4th trimester name from Susan Urban and her guide in a nutshell: https://www.parental-love.com/shop/baby-sleep-training although I’ve never though about it from Mom’s point of view and my own organism recovering. Thanks for bringing that up.