The fourth trimester is the name we give to the first 12 weeks after you’ve had your baby, when your body is recovering from the effects of pregnancy and delivery. It’s a time of rapid repair and recovery, but it can be frustrating when you feel like your recovery is slow. You are also on a steep learning curve – learning how to be a mum!
Everything can feel a bit topsy turvy as you adjust to motherhood. It’s common to feel like you don’t know enough. Is your baby feeding enough? Warm enough? Safe in the car seat? You may also be adjusting to finishing up at work, and you might be missing your work friends and your old routine. Your maternity clothes may not feel right, but nor do your regular clothes, and you may be wondering when you’ll feel like yourself again. These are all natural effects of the portpartum period.
The fourth trimester is a period of massive adjustment. And though we don’t often hear much about it in the media, it’s a time that deserves special support and attention.
Why do we call it the fourth trimester?
Your pregnancy is divided into 3 trimesters, all focused on the growth and development of your baby. The fourth trimester is time to focus on mum! Think of this stage as the time when you’re easing back into activity and exercise, respecting that change occurs gradually, despite often feeling like recovery is not as quickly as we would like.
What is happening in the fourth trimester?
During the fourth trimester, you’ll spend time getting to know your baby, establishing feeding and sleeping routines and working out a rhythm that suits your family. It can be quite overwhelming, not to mention a steep learning curve, especially if this is your first baby. It often seems like there is so much to learn and know, and you are determined to get this parenting thing right! You will hear conflicting advice from well-meaning family members, your maternal health nurse, books you’ve read and perhaps even your partner. It takes time to sift through all the ideas and settle into the rhythm that works best for you.
Physically, your tummy muscles will slowly tighten up (remember it’s natural to still look 5 months pregnant for the first few weeks, which can sometimes feel like quite a shock). As your tummy muscles regain their strength, your lower back and pelvis will be better supported, which is a big help.
Your pelvic floor muscles begin to recover, and you can ease back into gentle, low impact exercise when you feel ready and once your doctor deems it safe. Remember that your ligaments are still more relaxed and take time to stiffen up, so your joints are a little vulnerable, which is why low impact exercise is the best option in the fourth trimester.
What exercise can I do?
The 28 by Sam Wood pregnancy and postnatal program is designed with your safety in mind. The exercises are low impact and are designed to gradually improve your strength and muscle tone and build up your fitness. When you are starting out, you might find that you don’t finish the whole workout, or you don’t get it done every day. Don’t worry; just listen to your body, give yourself time and do your best.
Our ethos of “progress, not perfection” has never been more important than now!