Your Fourth Trimester | Methodist Hospital | UnityPoint Health

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Your Fourth trimester

New moms have a lot do. 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 – Methodist 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.

Start Your Fourth Trimester With the Teal Bracelet

One important part of your postpartum plan is communication. Your providers need to know you just had a baby, so that they can check for certain concerns, especially in an emergency.

The Birthing Center has this part of your plan covered. We send you home wearing a stylish teal bracelet. Doctors in our community know that it means you recently had a baby. We suggest you wear it for 6 weeks.

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 Methodist 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 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 well-woman mode. It should include your family plans so you and doctor can discuss contraceptive decisions.

Health Care Topics for a Postpartum Plan

You may want to discuss the following topics with your provider:

  • Do I have medical or emotional conditions that may change during the postpartum period?
  • Will any medications I take need to be adjusted?
  • What signs of postpartum depression should my family or I look for?
  • When is the best time for my first postpartum check-up?
  • What did my provider and I learn about my health during pregnancy? How can I use that information to promote my well-woman health?

Postpartum Support Plan

Some moms create a postpartum support plan. It puts information about your "village" of support at your fingertips. You or your partner can reach out for help when you need it. Some things you might include in your postpartum support plan are:

  • Support people's names and phone numbers
  • List of people who can cook, coordinate a meal train or pick up groceries
  • Information about other help people can provide, like sitting with baby so you can rest or shower, walking with you or offering parenting advice
  • List of people to support the birth partner in the same way
  • Information about people who can help with older siblings or pets

Postpartum Problems

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 

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
  • Constant 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

UnityPoint Health Methodist offers Moms Matter mental health support group every Tuesday from 6-7 p.m. Our trained staff listens to you and gives you support during your transition.

Postpartum preeclampsia 

This very rare condition occasionally occurs in the 6 weeks following pregnancy. It's one of the reasons your providers want you to wear the teal bracelet. 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
  • Nausea

Lactation Support

In most cases, breastfeeding happens naturally for both mom and baby. But sometimes you may run into issues. The Birthing Center has your back with a host of programs available when you go home. Learn how we can help with breastfeeding support after you go home.

Postpartum Care

You and your provider 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:

  • Visit in first 3 weeks: An initial postpartum assessment with a maternal care provider in the first 3 weeks after giving birth, followed by ongoing care as needed
  • 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

Contact the Birthing Center

You can call 309-672-4852 to schedule a tour of the Birthing Center. Tours are held:

  • Mondays  at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Wednesdays  at 5 p.m.
  • Fridays at 10 a.m.

For information about childbirth preparation classes, see our Classes and Events page or call 309-671-2522. Preregister now to reserve your space. You can contact our breastfeeding support program at 309-672-4242.