Pregnancy Guide: The Fourth Trimester
Wait… There’s a Fourth Trimester?
Is the fourth trimester of pregnancy really a thing? According to the experts, yes!
The term was coined by American pediatrician Dr Harvey Karp, to refer to a baby’s first few months of life: a time when they’re still adjusting to life outside of the womb, while continuing to develop at a rapid rate.
Many new parents find that the first weeks and months with their newborn pass by in a haze of feeds, diaper changes and sleepless nights – and that’s OK.
Don’t feel pressured to throw yourself back into your regular routine, unless that’s what you want. If you don’t manage a shower until 11pm or eat grilled cheese every night for a week, don’t sweat it. This time is all about getting to know each other.
The Fourth Trimester: Need To Know
Soon after your baby is born, he or she will probably undergo a number of newborn screening tests, designed to pick up rare conditions which could cause problems if left untreated.
The exact tests vary from state to state, but generally include a hearing test and a combined blood test for a variety of congenital disorders, taken from a quick prick to your baby’s heel. Some states also perform non-invasive heart defect screening as standard.
Do you know the warning signs of postpartum depression (PPD)? It’s very common to experience the “baby blues” in the week or two following the birth of your little one, but for around 10% of new mothers, the emotional upheaval of childbirth and new parenthood goes much deeper than that.
If you’re experiencing consistently low mood, feelings of hopelessness, guilt or anxiety, loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, extreme exhaustion or insomnia, it’s time to seek support.
Sleep safety is a really important subject for all new parents to learn about. Babies should be put to sleep on their backs, on a firm mattress with no soft toys, pillows or duvets, for at least the first year of life. You can find out more about baby sleep safety on the CDC site.
Breast, bottle, or both? It’s best to read up on the various ways to feed your baby before giving birth, so that you can come to an informed decision and stock up on necessities like bottles or breast pads. Whether or not you choose to breastfeed, you will still feel your milk come in around two to four days after delivery.
Your breasts can get uncomfortably full during the early weeks as your milk supply is adjusting to demand, but in most cases nursing your baby or expressing a little milk will help to alleviate this.
If you notice any localized pain, swelling or redness, especially accompanied by a fever or flu-like symptoms, see a doctor. These could be signs of mastitis, a painful inflammation of the breast which can progress into a serious infection if not treated quickly.
Sex may be the last thing on your mind right now, but it’s important to think about contraception if you want to avoid becoming pregnant again for a while. Contrary to popular belief, it’s possible for some women to conceive as early as two to four weeks after giving birth, even if they haven’t had a period yet or are breastfeeding.
The Fourth Trimester: Good To Have
When we polled our members for their favorite new baby products, some items came up time and again.
Among Nameberry's best-loved baby products are: a sling or baby carrier, burp cloths or muslin squares, sleep sacks, a nursing pillow, and baby toiletries like nail clippers, sensitive bath wash, and a baby thermometer.
A swaddle blanket can be a really useful thing to have in the fourth trimester, especially if you have a colicky baby or one who refuses to sleep anywhere but on you! Safe, secure swaddling mimics the cramped conditions of the womb and can help to soothe a fractious baby to sleep.
If you plan on combination-feeding your little one, or introducing a bottle for expressed milk so that your partner can participate too, it’s recommended that you wait at least six weeks to avoid “nipple confusion” and to allow breastfeeding to get established.
The Fourth Trimester: To Do List
Keep your baby close. Skin-to-skin contact is really valuable for your little one’s early development, bonding and emotional well-being, and the benefits last for many weeks and months after birth. Bathtime, nursing sessions and diaper changes all make for ideal opportunities to share some skin-to-skin time with your baby every day.
Once you’ve taken a little time as a family to get to know each other, you’ll be keen to introduce your baby to family and friends. Everyone loves snuggling with a newborn, but medical professionals recommend that all visitors wash their hands before handling a new baby, especially if they were born prematurely.
Try to get out of the house if you can, even if it’s just to walk down to the store for some milk. Not only will you benefit physically from the fresh air and exercise, but the psychological benefit of adult interaction is not to be underestimated – especially during the whirlwind early weeks of new parenthood!
Just remember that your baby will be easily over-stimulated at this age, so a parent-facing baby carrier or stroller might be a sensible idea.
The Lowdown On Namer’s Remorse
Baby name regret: it seems to be an increasingly common phenomenon these days.
We’re certainly seeing more and more discussions of the subject on the Nameberry forum. So, what is it, what causes it, and what (if anything) should you do about it if you find yourself regretting the name you chose?
Depending on where you live, you may have had anything from several hours, days, or even weeks to officially register your baby’s name. In some states, you won’t actually be allowed to leave the hospital until you’ve supplied a name for the birth certificate.
This time pressure – coupled with the inevitable postpartum exhaustion and hormones – can lead to some hasty decision-making which you may well find yourself regretting with the benefit of hindsight.
However, it’s also important to note that, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or obsessed by your baby name remorse, it could be an early warning sign of postpartum depression. Before you take any concrete action, it’s a good idea to take some time to talk your concerns through with your partner, friends and family, to work out where these feelings are coming from.
If you do decide that a name change is the right course of action, it may be as simple and inexpensive as amending your baby’s birth certificate, which in some states can be done free of charge up until their first birthday.
In other states, a full name change by deed poll may be necessary. But, if you’re sure of your decision, the payoff in peace of mind will likely be well worth any effort, expense and potential embarrassment you may face.
Check out this blog on changing your baby's name for our nine top tips for ensuring the process goes as smoothly as possible.