Your Fourth Trimester
Being a new mom is a full-time job. Sometimes they forget that they need to take care of themselves during the first few months with baby. That's why providers now call your initial 12 weeks at home "the fourth trimester." During this vital time, you are shifting from pregnancy into your new-normal mode.
UnityPoint Health – Fort Dodge is here to help you plan for this important time. One helpful tool is a postpartum plan, which organizations like the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommend. A postpartum plan is a list or document that helps you keep track of your health and organize help for you and baby.
What Is a Postpartum Plan?
Your first months at home will be smoother if you have a process to move into parenthood. A postpartum care plan is helpful even if this is not your first baby. Start while you're pregnant and ask your providers and Trinity team for help.
What Should a Postpartum Plan Include?
Your plan may include a care plan and a support plan. A care plan is specific to your health needs. It might include changes in your prescriptions or conditions you should watch for, like signs of postpartum anxiety/depression. A support plan helps you and your partner organize help with the baby and "you" time.
You and your provider can develop a care plan together. Your plan should help you move from pregnancy into pre-pregnancy mode. It should include your family plans so you and doctor can discuss contraceptive decisions.
Health Care Topics for a Postpartum Plan
Consider discussing the following topics with your provider:
- Do I have medical or emotional conditions that may change during the postpartum period?
- What are signs and symptoms of postpartum anxiety/depression?
- Will any medications I take need to be adjusted?
- We will schedule your 1st postpartum visit.
- Did my provider and I learn anything new about my health during pregnancy?
What Should a Postpartum Plan Include?
A postpartum support plan can come in handy. It puts information about your "village" of support at your fingertips if you need some extra help. Some things you might consider in your postpartum support plan are:
- Support people's names and phone numbers
- List of people who can cook, coordinate a meal train, pick up groceries or help with older siblings or pets
- Information about other help people can provide, like sitting with baby so you can rest or shower, walking with you or offering parenting advice
While your baby's first months are a time of joy, you should be aware of a few things. Protect your health and watch for symptoms of:
Postpartum depression is common and not a sign of weakness. If you have signs of postpartum depression, talk to your provider right away. They can help figure out if you have something more than standard "baby blues." Be alert for:
- Sad, hopeless, empty or overwhelmed feelings
- Frequent crying or crying for no reason
- Unusual anxiety or worry
- Anger or rage
- Endless worry that you can't take care of the baby
- Feelings that you can't bond or become attached to the baby
- Thoughts about hurting yourself or the baby
Sometimes depression shows up in other ways. You may:
- Oversleep or not be able to sleep
- Feel uninterested in your usual activities, including friends and family
- Have headaches, physical aches and pains, or stomach problems
- Overeat or not eat enough
- Constant or near-constant worry that can't be eased
- Feelings of dread about things you fear will happen
- Sleep disruption: waking up and having trouble sleeping when baby is peacefully sleeping
Physical symptoms related to postpartum anxiety
- Heart palpitations
- Shakiness or trembling
This very rare condition occasionally occurs in the 6 weeks following pregnancy. Watch for the following signs and call your provider, 911 or go to the ED if you have them:
- Stomach pain
- Feeling nauseous or throwing up
- Swelling in your hands and face
- Severe headaches
- Seeing spots or other vision changes
- Shortness of breath
Excessive postpartum bleeding or hemorrhage
Some bleeding is common after you have a baby. But if you have excessive bleeding, you'll need to take action. Call your doctor if you have these postpartum bleeding symptoms:
- Bright red bleeding after 3 days post-birth
- Blood clots bigger than a plum
- Bleeding that soaks more than one pad in an hour and doesn't slow down or stop
- Blurred vision
- Chills or clammy skin
- Rapid heartbeat, dizziness, weakness or feeling faint
Breastfeeding may happen naturally for both mom and baby, but sometimes you may run into issues. Call us at (515) 574-6052 if you're feeling overwhelmed or have questions. We will ask for your name for any phone conversations.
You and your doctor should talk about your postpartum visit plan while you are pregnant. Your plan should focus on your individual health needs and consider issues you encountered during pregnancy. The newest recommendations for the fourth trimester are:
- Full visit within 3 months: A comprehensive postpartum visit no later than 12 weeks after birth, including a full review of your physical, social and psychological needs
- Customized follow-up as needed: Specific follow-up for women with conditions like hypertensive disorders, obesity, diabetes, thyroid disorders, renal disease, mood disorders or substance use disorders
- Specialized guidance for complications: Health advice for women who had pregnancy complications including preterm birth, gestational diabetes or hypertension
Being a new mom is difficult and comes with a lot of different emotions. Now, more than ever, it is important to take care of yourself. If you have been feeling down, anxious or overwhelmed, we have partnered with Berryhill Center to provide you with additional support. We have a licensed mental health therapist with specialized training in perinatal mental health who provides appointments at UnityPoint Clinic OB/GYN.
We are here for that special moment baby is born, and to answer any questions you have before and after baby is born. Call us any time of the day at (515) 574-6052.
It takes a village to raise a child, let us be a part of yours.
For information about childbirth preparation classes, visit our Classes and Events.