AHN Women's Behavioral Health: 412-578-4030  |  Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1-800-SUICIDE

4th Trimester - Your Family Has Expanded

There’s a preconceived idea that the weeks and months after giving birth is supposed to be the happiest time for a woman. And that makes it extra hard to admit to yourself or tell someone if you’re actually struggling and feeling sad during the 4th trimester. You may have heard about the “baby blues,” or feeling a little down after you have a baby. But postpartum depression is something more.

Postpartum depression, or PPD, is more persistent and lasts longer than the blues, and it’s a lot more common than people think. About one in every seven new moms will experience postpartum depression — it’s so common that it’s considered the number one complication of pregnancy. PPD isn’t just about the situation. It’s a mix of significant changes in your body with the added pressure of becoming responsible for a baby. Giving birth creates waves of rapidly changing hormones, sometimes giving way to sad and hopeless thoughts. For many, this period of ‘baby blues’ doesn’t last long. For others, these feelings just won’t stop. It can affect anyone, even if you don’t have a history of depression. And it absolutely does not mean you’re a bad mom.

Postpartum Doctor Visits

A nurse will call you two weeks after delivery just to see how things are going, how you’re feeling, and if you have any questions. As always, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call your doctor if you’re not feeling well!

Your OB/GYN will want to see you 6–8 weeks after you give birth, unless there is concern to be seen sooner. Some of the things they’ll cover during that visit include:

The Importance of Sleep

Sleep is an essential part of our physical and mental health — it allows the body to heal itself and function on a day-to-day basis. But many new moms don’t get enough sleep as babies may wake frequently during the night for feeding, changing, and fussing. Sleep deprivation can take a toll over time and can lead to irritability, illness, stress, and forgetfulness. But hang in there — it does get better!

While some days will be easier than others to get the rest you need, it’s important to try to sleep whenever you can. Here are some helpful tips to sneak in periods of rest:

Sleep when your baby sleeps.

Silence your phone, hide the laundry basket, and ignore the dishes in the kitchen sink. Calls and chores can wait.

Set aside social graces.

When friends and loved ones visit, don’t offer to be the host. Instead, ask if they could watch the baby while you take a nap.

Don’t “bed share” during sleep.

It’s OK to bring your baby into your bed for nursing or comforting — but return your baby to the crib or bassinet when you’re ready to go back to sleep.

Split duties.

If possible, work out a schedule with your partner that allows each of you alternately to rest and care for the baby.

Exercise and Stress Management to Keep You Going

The idea of physical activity probably sounds overwhelming when you’re coping with the added responsibilities of a new baby, but it’s important to be active when you can. Even just a little bit of light exercise each day is helpful in reducing stress, improving self-esteem, increasing energy, regulating moods, getting your body back to its pre-baby shape, and sleeping more soundly when you do have the chance to rest.

If you had a healthy pregnancy and a normal vaginal delivery, you should be able to start exercising again soon after the baby is born. Usually, it is safe to begin exercising a few days after giving birth — or as soon as you feel ready. If you had a C-section or other complications, ask your health care provider when it is safe to begin exercising again.

Starting Motherhood with Less Stress

Having a baby is a big life change, and stress is to be expected. There are so many new responsibilities, an unpredictable schedule, less sleep, hormonal changes, wondering if you’re doing it right — it’s enough to make even the coolest cucumber sweat sometimes!

Self-care and stress management are an essential parts of adjusting to motherhood, and each day offers a new opportunity for renewal and moments of calm. Here are some ways to re-frame stressful situations and restore a little peace to these next few months:

Identify what’s causing the stress.

Then determine what might be done to minimize that stressor — or how you react to it. Give yourself permission to adjust your standards and accept that it’s OK if things aren’t as they’ve always been.

Recognize what you can control, and what you can’t.

Newborns have their own quirks, schedules, preferences, and agendas — and that unpredictability is part of what makes them cute!

Take care of your body.

Good sleep, nutrition, and exercise are essential parts of coping with stress and anxiety.

Make time for daily relaxation.

Even if it’s just a few minutes while baby is sleeping or with another caregiver, treat yourself to gentle music, focused breathing, reflection, yoga, or meditation.

Give yourself a pep talk.

Positive self-talk may feel silly, but putting a positive spin on things can make them seem less daunting.

Accept help from your partner, friends, and family.

They’re eager to lend a hand with things like running errands, dropping off meals, watching an older child, keeping you company, holding the baby while you take some time for yourself, and so on.

Know there will be setbacks. Be kind to yourself when they happen!

Share | Engage | Support