If you are expecting a new baby, you are probably anticipating major life changes ahead. Though you may be preparing yourself for long, sleepless nights and more than a few fussy moments, many new mothers do not anticipate the impact this can have on their mental health. We hear a lot about the three trimesters, but not enough about what happens during the fourth trimester.
What is the Fourth Trimester?
Unfortunately, few women know about the fourth trimester and what happens during this period of time. The fourth trimester begins right after birth, and can be a critical time for both mom and baby.
“The fourth trimester is the first 12 weeks postpartum. This can be a really challenging time for mothers. I would say maternal exhaustion is completely universal. So it’s important for our partners and our family members to recognize when that exhaustion crosses over into something that needs a little more attention and treatment.”
During the postpartum period, new moms experience what is commonly referred to as the “baby blues”. As your body recovers and heals, you may not feel like your old self right away. Some common symptoms of the baby blues are:
- Feeling irritable or having frequent mood swings
- Crying over minor issues, or for no reason at all
- Feeling restless or experiencing insomnia despite feeling exhausted
- Poor concentration
On top of the fatigue, missing life before becoming a parent can also add to your stress. If your baby blues begin to feel more intense and start to interfere with everyday life, it’s time to notify your obstetrician or midwife.
Coping with the Baby Blues
Approximately 80% of new mothers experience the baby blues, that’s 4 out of 5 women. Unfortunately, many new moms feel embarrassed or try to overcome their anxiety and depression on their own. Your obstetrician can assess your mental health, and prescribe medication if needed.
The postpartum period can be hard, but it’s important not to overlook your own wellbeing as you care for your baby. Some things you can do are:
- Ask for help
- Remember what you are feeling and experiencing is normal
- Set realistic goals and expectations for yourself
- Get sleep when you can
- Talk to someone, be it a therapist, friend, or family member
- Don’t skip or avoid follow up appointments
- Eat well and get some fresh air
Caring for a newborn can leave you feeling isolated and burnt out, but if you are struggling with severe anxiety and depression post-birth, you may have postpartum depression. After all you’ve been through, don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed, and lean on your partner for support. As you transition into life as a parent, remember this is all normal, and should pass in the coming weeks.
If you continue to experience prolonged mood swings or have difficulty adjusting to life as a new parent, reach out to your healthcare provider.