“Pregnancy and birth require us to open and expand. Postpartum requires that we close our physical bodies back up, that we redefine our personal boundaries, and that we reconnect with ourselves as newly born Mothers.”
-Rachelle Garcia Seliga with Innate Traditions
We live in a culture that convinces mothers to push forward and “bounce back” to our pre-pregnancy selves.. where postpartum begs you to do the exact opposite. It’s so important for our motherhood journey to honor the body and mind in the fourth trimester and beyond, so that we can evolve into this new role with our well-being centered and raise our children in wholeness.
The fourth trimester begins the moment your baby comes earthside, and the first three months thereafter. It’s a period of adjustment and profound transformation for you and your baby. Just as your baby needed time to grow and develop in the womb during the first three trimesters, the fourth trimester is a crucial time for them to transition to life outside the womb. It is also for you a time of healing physically and emotionally, stepping into the role of mother, and bonding with your baby.
Postpartum physical recovery is a vital aspect of the fourth trimester, as your body goes through remarkable changes after childbirth. One of the most important things for new mothers to do during this time is to honor their bodies and rest. It’s essential to acknowledge what your body has just embarked upon, and prioritize the healing that is needed. During this time, physical changes such as vaginal healing, uterus shrinking, breast engorgement, and possible scar healing (if you had a C-Section) are common discomforts as your body heals from birth. Different care practices can be planned beforehand so that when the time arrives, you have what is needed.
Here are some remedies that we have found helpful for our patients:
- Perineal Healing; Sitz baths, herbs to be used in baths or peri bottles, warm or cool compresses (this is a personal preference, so which ever feels better for you), witch hazel pads, placenta encapsulation (it is documented that encapsulation can aid in quicker healing)
- Breast Engorgement; Warm compresses, warm showers before feeding
- Body Discomfort/Cramping; After Birth tincture, arnica tablets or oil, ibuprofen
Nourishment plays a crucial role in your physical healing and overall well being as well. During this time, the body requires extra nutrients and hydration to replenish depleted reserves, promote healing, and support breastfeeding. An amazing book that we recommend is ‘The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother’ written by Heng Ou. Not only does this book help shine light on the desperate need of caring for mothers, but it also provides warming recipes for your womb and body. Now is the time to nourish your body with specific foods meant to aid in healing for the postpartum momma. An amazing thing I learned during my training is that in Ayurvedic medicine, the womb after birth is considered ‘cold’, and feeding your body ‘warming foods’ with different spices and what their community considers warm energetics, fills the womb back up with warmth. Leaning on your support community or preparing these foods beforehand is super helpful so that you as the mother can focus on rest and bonding with your baby while still nurturing your healing body.
As important and obvious as physical healing is during the postpartum time, equally important and not always so obvious is emotional healing. The fourth trimester is a fragile time of immense change and transformation. All the while, your hormones take a severe, quick dip and time is needed to build them back up again. It’s important to acknowledge that the transition to motherhood can bring about a wide spectrum of feelings, including joy, overwhelm, exhaustion, and even moments of doubt, angst, sadness or grief. Giving yourself permission to experience and process these emotions is essential, knowing that whatever you’re feeling is okay and can be supported. Creating a nurturing and supportive environment that encourages open communication and self-compassion can aid in emotional healing.
It is said by many wise women and men, that the home is an energy extension or reflection of your inner being.
Creating a peaceful environment with purpose during this time specifically can contribute to a better well being for both you and baby. Different ideas to foster a place of peace are; noise reduction, soft lighting, creating spaces of comfort for mother and baby to enjoy skin to skin cuddles, keeping your personal boundaries on visitors, hanging postpartum affirmation cards in your living spaces, and incorporating mindful practices into your daily routines (like breath work or gentle stretching.) Just like in birth and labor preparations, you can and should gather items for postpartum to help create these feelings of peace.
Having a strong support system in place can also make a world of difference. Whether it’s the presence of a partner, family members, close friends, a postpartum doula, or the guidance of your midwife like at Womankind Midwifery, having someone by your side who understands and offers assistance can provide immeasurable comfort. As mentioned above, these support people can help with meals, household tasks, offer encouragement or simply give you a chance to rest and be close with your baby without the worry of looming tasks. The power of support during the fourth trimester cannot be overstated, as it truly is essential.
Your fourth trimester is a delicate period that requires prioritizing your needs and the needs of your new baby. With some thought and visualization during pregnancy, you can help cultivate a space of true healing for your freshly postpartum self. Establishing these practices can help create a foundation for your motherhood journey that is whole, present and flourishing.
- The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother By; Heng Ou
- The Fourth Trimester: A Postpartum Guide to Healing your body, Balancing your Emotions and Restoring your Vitality By; Kimberly Ann Johnson (Book and Cards)
- Affirmation Cards: Renegade Mama Postpartum Support Cards
By: Ashley Jacobs