The fourth trimester is a period of transition from pregnancy to the first three months of postpartum. As a new mother, the fourth trimester is often overlooked as your focus is on the baby often causing you to de-prioritize taking care of yourself. During this time, it can feel as if you need to put on a brave face and only prioritize your newborn, but this is not the case.
Taking care of your baby is important but it’s also time for your own physical and emotional adjustment to this big life change. Your body is adjusting to no longer being the home for your baby, your hormones are rapidly changing and you are learning to navigate this new life transition. This is where taking care of yourself postpartum comes in.
The fourth trimester is the time when your baby is finally in your arms and you’re starting the transition to a “new normal”. You are adjusting to life with a newborn, being a new mother, and coping with this change in your identity. It can feel overwhelming as you are trying to navigate this major adjustment, and it can take time for you to find your new normal.
You may look around and feel lost, stressed, and under a lot of pressure to show up in a certain way. There are expectations from society that you will bounce back right away and instantly become a super mom. But, this is not realistic. A part of the fourth trimester is understanding that your “normal” looks different than what society says it should. It also looks different before pregnancy. It’s accepting that your life has changed and then allowing yourself to take the time to adjust without the pressure of having to achieve instant perfection.
As you move through the fourth trimester, take this time to take in your “new normal”. This may be that you need more rest, that you have to ask for help or accept that everything is not perfect right away. It might mean that your hair lives in a messy bun but that’s perfectly okay.
For example, rather than putting pressure on yourself to dress up for the day, recognize that you can wear yoga pants and take the time to gain your energy back. Maybe you had the expectation that you would be happy and be instantly in love with your newfound motherhood. But in actuality, you may feel overwhelmed, anxious, or disconnected.
It is also important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when transitioning into postpartum life. Every new mom has her own unique experience and needs different things for her mental health, so be mindful of what works best for you. This is your time to reset and adjust. While it may take some time, you can adjust to this new normal.
One of the main sources of stress you may be feeling is the lack of self-confidence you may have in your new role as a mother. It’s easy to feel like you don’t know what to do or that you’re not doing it right. You’ve tried everything from swaddling and rocking to feeding, but nothing seems to help your baby. It can be a blow to your confidence to feel like you’re failing.
It’s important to recognize that you are not alone in this feeling, and it’s completely normal to doubt yourself as a new mom. This is new to you just as it is to your baby, and you will learn together. You’re just learning about this new human being and it takes time to understand each other. Being patient with yourself and your baby is key. You may not feel confident in the moment, but once you get to know each other, the confidence will come. The best thing you can do is give yourself grace and be kind to yourself as you navigate this transition.
A great way to slowly build confidence in yourself and boost your self-esteem is by celebrating any small victory. Something like getting out of the house with a newborn may seem impossible, but when you do it, that is worth celebrating. You got yourself and your baby ready, out of the house, and back in before nap time. That is a success! Or, maybe your victory is the fact you were able to successfully get your baby down for a nap? Recognize how great you did and take some time to do something for yourself.
You also may want to practice self-compassion and positive self-talk. It’s easy to fall into negative thoughts of feeling inadequate or like you’re not doing a good job as a mother. For example, you might find yourself thinking, “I’m not a good mom. I never know what to do.” Instead of focusing on this negative thought, remind yourself that you are learning and growing just like your baby is. Tell yourself, “I’m doing my best and that is good enough.” Just know that you are the best mother for your baby and having all the answers isn’t realistic.
The transition to the fourth trimester can be a time of great change and adjustment. Maybe you were used to a spotless home but now have piles of laundry or toys all around. Or, think of how many outfits you were able to get through a week before baby and now, it’s more like one. It can be hard to let go of control in this situation, but taking the time to realize these expectations for you, your home, and your baby are unrealistic can be a great start.
Start by acknowledging that you need to relinquish control and perfectionism and embrace flexibility and adaptability in daily routines. This can be one of the hardest parts of parenthood as it’s unpredictable and can be ever-changing. So, if you are struggling with letting go of control, seeking support from a mental health professional can be beneficial. Maternal mental health in Manhattan can support you in finding ways to slowly let go of control and start to accept imperfections.
Here is a reminder that you don’t have to be perfect, because perfection doesn’t exist. You are more than the pile of laundry that has been sitting in the same spot for days or the dishes that have piled up in the sink. You are a new mother who is doing her best. And you need to give yourself the grace and understanding that it’s okay not to be perfect.
When the imperfections start overwhelming you, this can be a great time to take a step back and pause. Think about what kind of thoughts you’re having and how they make you feel. Is it time to give yourself some compassion? Are your expectations realistic? Or, maybe you need a break or to ask for help. Reflecting on these feelings in the moment can be an effective way of releasing your need to control and allowing yourself to remind yourself that your laundry is piled up because you are taking care of your baby. And by ignoring the stress of laundry, you are in turn taking care of yourself.
As a new mother, you may feel guilty asking for help or feel like it’s something you should be able to do on your own. You may feel that you’re asking too much from family and friends. But, in reality, utilizing your support system is an important part of self-care and can be a great way to reduce stress.
When asking for help from your support system, it can be helpful to communicate honestly what you need and in what ways they can be of service. This can look like your parents helping out with childcare one day a week so you can take some time for yourself. Or, having your partner pick up groceries on their way home from work so you don’t have to worry about it. Letting them know what kind of help you are looking for and how they can provide will make it easier to get the support you need.
Not only is reaching out to your support system great for your mental health, but it also lets them know that you trust, value, and appreciate them. This can strengthen your relationship with your partner or family members by fostering more communication and connection. Don’t hesitate to reach out for support, whether you need an extra pair of hands or someone to lend an ear. It’s a great chance to build stronger connections and deepen relationships with those around you.
However, even with a strong support system, the fourth trimester can still feel overwhelming. Despite everyone’s best intentions, those around you may not fully understand what you’re going through. You might be experiencing anxiety now that your baby is here or struggling with postpartum depression. In such cases, it could be beneficial to seek professional help from a maternal mental health professional like the therapists at Manhattan Wellness.
Even when you were pregnant or thinking of becoming a parent, you may have encountered advice from family and friends on how you should raise your child. When it comes to parenting, everyone has an opinion – some are more helpful than others. Yet, setting boundaries with your family and friends about advice and when you need it can be a great way to protect your mental and emotional well-being.
You may know they mean well, but hearing unsolicited advice or criticism can be overwhelming. It can be helpful to inform them that you appreciate their input and opinion, but that ultimately the decision is yours. Communicating your boundaries like this can help foster understanding and respect without feeling like you are disappointing anyone.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed out about a situation related to your postpartum mental health, or even your baby, don’t be afraid to speak up and voice what you need. You know yourself and your baby best, so trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself.
For example, if you feel like you aren’t getting the care or support you need from your doctor, don’t hesitate to communicate that. Or, if you feel that your child’s needs are not being fully supported, it may be helpful to bring that up as well. If you need support, telling your support system can help you get the care you need. Doing so can help ensure the best possible support for both you and your child.
Anxiety and depression in the postpartum period are something that often goes unrecognized and can be hard to talk about. While it’s normal to feel anxious, it doesn’t mean you have to stay in it alone. This transition can feel isolating as you are trying to make sense of all these new roles and expectations. Perhaps, you even feel ashamed for experiencing these negative emotions.
But, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of postpartum anxiety or depression in order to get the help you need.
Postpartum anxiety and depression affect many new mothers but knowing the signs and symptoms can help you recognize if something needs to be addressed. Some of the common signs are feeling overwhelmed, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, feelings of guilt and worry about your baby’s safety, unexpected sadness or irritability, and changes in appetite. Some of you may think “This is just a normal part of being a new mom,” but if your symptoms are significantly impairing your ability to care for yourself or your baby, it’s important to reach out and get professional help.
You’ll get to connect with a postpartum therapist who specializes in maternal mental health. They’ll provide you with the invaluable support you need from an unbiased perspective. Your therapist can help you establish healthy habits and adopt new strategies for self-care, both mentally and physically, during this transformative phase. You may discover techniques to manage your anxiety when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Or, you will be able to develop healthier coping mechanisms for postpartum depression and the associated emotions.
Your postpartum therapist can also help you identify and set boundaries so that your time is therapistdevoted to both yourself and your baby. Together, you and your therapist can come up with ways for you to include self-care into your daily routine this way you can enjoy the transition into motherhood. Whether it’s dedicating time to exercise, indulging in a good book, or enjoying a soothing cup of tea with your partner, prioritizing self-care in your daily routine is crucial.
When you became pregnant or decided to try for a baby, you may have heard the term “fourth trimester.” But, no one quite prepared you for the mental, emotional, and physical toll that comes with the postpartum period. Even at doctor’s appointments they never took the time to explain the full scope of what happens once your baby is here.
The fourth trimester is a time of transition after giving birth and is often overlooked, even by medical professionals. It’s a time of adjustment, healing, growth, and getting to know your baby. It’s also a time of getting to know your new identity and finding a balance between your roles as a mom, partner, and individual. This not only takes time but it takes space, and it’s okay to give yourself that.
You can do this by engaging in activities that nourish you, investing in quality sleep, honoring your needs over anyone else’s expectations, and allowing yourself to accept help when offered. Doing so will create the foundation needed for a successful fourth trimester.
You may have been told the cliché advice to “sleep when your baby sleeps,” but it’s much more than that. You need to take care of yourself first in order to be able to fully take care of your newborn and family. Allowing yourself time to rest, relax, and adjust to this new life can make all the difference in your mental health. You can’t pour from an empty cup and you can’t be the best mom for your baby if you’re not taking care of yourself first.
At Manhattan Wellness, we understand that the fourth trimester is a time of transition and adjustment. From adjusting to your new identity as a mom to navigating infant and postpartum care, it can be an overwhelming process. One that no one prepared you for. That’s why our female therapists want to support you in prioritizing your maternal mental health during the fourth trimester. Let us help you take care of yourself so you can feel confident in your new role as a mom. If you are interested in therapy for your maternal mental health:
Our therapists understand that with becoming a new mother, there can be a variety of different needs that arise. Apart from helping you navigate the fourth trimester and maternal mental health, our therapists also offer a variety of services to cater to your individual needs. The therapy services we offer are Anxiety Treatment, Therapy for Depression, Stress Management, and Therapy for Women. As well as Therapy for Self-Esteem, support for, body image therapy, and so much more. Do you feel like you’re not living the life you want and need to make changes? Let’s talk about it.