Preparation is Key for the Fourth Trimester
Postpartum care is vitally important, but planning for the few weeks following birth is just as essential.
Last year the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommended earlier and more in-depth follow-up for patients during the immediate postpartum period. For good reason, as a large percentage of new moms skip postnatal care altogether; which can lead to health concerns for both mom and baby.
While postpartum care from a physician is quite important, it’s only a piece of the puzzle. Planning for this period, known as the “fourth trimester,” can also help you alleviate postnatal concerns. Most moms prepare by stocking up on diapers and baby essentials—like the car seat, but here’s how moms and their partners can truly ready themselves for what’s to come.
Six ways to prepare
Prepare for the inevitable
Giving birth is a beautiful, but overwhelming experience. Birth and the weeks afterward can bring a wash of emotions and many physical changes. Lack of sleep is to be expected, but there are other discomforts that can impact mom’s day-to-day experience including healing time, the unexpected physical side effects of birth, intimacy changes and lactation concerns. You can become knowledgeable about these early by talking with your obstetrician/gynecologist about what’s to come. It is also important to arrange for what is expected of you at workas well as at home after the birth so that you can have everything in place before baby’s arrival. Be proactive and contact your Human Resources Department. After all, the fourth trimester is not the time for a surprise of any kind.
Get educated early
Physician’s offices, like ours, will often offer classes on antepartum and pregnancy care, along with hospital details, what to expect during labor or a C-section, interventions, lactation support options, available services and more. If your physician’s office does not offer these classes, most hospitals offer tours of their facilities, as well as breastfeeding preparation and support classes, parenting and birth preparation sessions, sibling classes and more [link to hospital classes]. It’s important to get signed up for these classes early so the whole family can be equipped for the birthing and parenting process.
Get your loved ones on board
Many assume that since it is a natural process for women to give birth, everything falls into place. However, for many new moms it is an emotional ride to receive attention from everyone in their circle for nine to ten months, and then have all the attention shift to another, even if it is their own baby. This sudden withdrawal of support can be devastating to some women, so the OB/GYN may be the first to initiate the conversation about how others can continue to support the mother after delivery. I encourage partners to give the patient well-deserved compliments and encouragement, which can go a long way in supporting mom’s self-esteem and boost her strength.
Don't be afraid to ask for help
All moms should expect to feel overwhelmed and sleep-deprived at some point – it is how they handle and respond to these feelings that count. Just as we tell our children to “use their words,” I advise patients to reach out to their support team and ask for help. Moms can begin by asking their closest family and friends, particularly the ones present at birth, for help. They want to help but may not know what to do. A prenatal discussion about how partners or loved ones can help after delivery with necessities like cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, babysitting other children and more can help them to be ready to share the load after birthwithout the burden of having to ask when mom is at her busiest. Your support team is present because they love you however, they may not know exactly what you need unless you ask. Do yourself a favor and ask!
Don't skip on the follow up
The reality is that birth can be difficult both physically and emotionally, but proper postpartum care can help. Getting the required after care allows new moms to reduce other concerns and therefore spend more time focused on baby with less worry. At this appointment we make sure our patients are properly healing, check on their emotional well-being, and discuss contraceptive options, as well as baby’s health and feeding. We also can provide referrals for any needs from psychiatric to urological.
Stay in touch
When it comes to the OB/GYN care team, we are here for our patients. If any changes in health or mental status arise after birth, most doctors’ offices offer multiple ways to stay in touch and seek assistance. I encourage my patients to never delay calling because they feel embarrassed or that their concern is not “big” enough. If it is a causing distress, chances are the physician will want to know about it.
Having a baby is life-changing. Like any big event, it takes planning, preparation and follow-through. The right medical team should be there for mom every step of the way to help guide them during this important period in her life.
Dr. Khadijah Jordan, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., F.A.C.S., is an obstetrician gynecologist on staff at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center. She is a previous chair of the department of OBGYN at Chesapeake Regional and also a previous president of the Chesapeake Medical Society.