A good friend of mine is officially overdue. She's 41 weeks pregnant, three centimeters dilated, and ready for her baby to get out of her body yesterday.
Maybe you know the feeling? Once we get to week 38 or 39, we're officially over it. "I'm so done," or "Get out of my belly," you might have been remarking to anyone who will listen as the days creep slowly by. Only a slim minority of women don't want the pregnancy to end. And I certainly wasn't one of them.
At least we have a timer of sorts - we can track our progress through our three trimesters. Three isn't a big number right? If we can make it to three then we KNOW it's going to be over soon.
Well, friends, it's official.
Recently, the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists announced some big news. We have a Fourth Trimester. This is potentially bad news for those of us who see their third trimester as their proverbial finish line. Before you throw your hormonal toys out of your pram in frustration, news of this extra trimester should bring a smile to your face once you realize what it's actually for.
The Fourth Trimester - Extra Care For Baby
The term 'Fourth Trimester' isn't exactly new news. Its importance has been discussed at length. Author of 'The Happiest Baby On The Block' Dr. Harvey Karp also stressed the importance of a fourth trimester. Many nationalities instinctively know that there is a period of time immediately after the baby is born where the baby needs extra care.
Let's face it, there's a world of difference between living in Moms warm, comfortable womb for nine months only to be cast out to face a cold, noisy, brightly lit environment. This transition can be very distressing for the baby, and so great importance is now placed on the 12-week period after the baby is born.
Many recommend that this time is spent in complete rest with your child, making sure that they are fed when they need to be fed, that they have constant skin-to-skin contact, and that they are in a sheltered, calm, and quiet environment.
To date, that has really been the only discussion about what the fourth trimester is all about. But now, the spotlight is shifting to someone else within these first few weeks: Mom.
It's All About Mom
Nine News covers the topic above. Moms are supposed to be going to see their doctors for their follow-up appointments six weeks after the baby is born. Statistics show that only 40% of women actually make it to that appointment and the rest fall by the wayside. Thus, leaving themselves open to potential issues with the baby, but, more importantly, mental health issues. Additionally, this means that there's no discussion about follow-up contraception after the baby is born.
By not making this vital appointment, Moms are leaving themselves open to a plethora of potential mental & health issues. Doctors want to connect with their patients after the baby is born, and are now encouraging people to visit even earlier than the standard 6 weeks checkup.
The Core Care Components For Mom
To bring home this point even further, Lauren Robertson produced a beautiful video on the fourth trimester, where she opens the door and introduces Kimberly Johnsons perspective on the Fourth Trimester.
The short film talks about the loneliness that a lot of mothers can feel, the newness of their role as Mother, that feelings of isolation can be common as they try to become accustomed to their new job.
Kimberly introduces a marvelous framework; five components that every mother should strive for as she gets used to becoming a mother for the first time:
We should aim to get as much rest as possible in the first 12 weeks after baby is born. Sleep when the baby sleeps and do as little as you possibly can and spend your time making sure that you've recovered from the marathon that was pregnancy, labor, and delivery of the baby.
#2 Nutritious Food
Typically, our husbands bring all sorts of fast food home in an effort to keep our energy stocked up and our milk production going. However, the focus should be on nutritious food, so we keep our emotional and hormonal well-being in check.
#3 Loving Touch
Perhaps this is where dad can step in and lend a hand and give some massages or bring a massage therapist over to the house. Loving touch is so important and not just for baby. It's paramount that mom feels that she's being physically supported.
#4 Tribe Of Women
The fourth point is discussed is the companionship of wise women. How wonderful is it to have a tribe of supportive female friends and family members around that are there to comfort, advice, consult, or just to be with you when you're getting accustomed to this new section of your life?
The fifth and final one is to get in touch with nature. When I watched the video and I saw this final feature, I was so surprised because contact with nature is something that I personally didn't see the value in.
I didn't know that it was important. I didn't think about it, to be honest with you. Kimberly stresses that these five components of care should be seen as necessities; not as things that you should strive to do, but things that you must do.
Ultimately, the point of both of these messages is that mom's health, care, and self-nurturing, are paramount to the success of welcoming a new baby into the world. When Mom is happy and supported, then everything is right with the world around her.