Pediatricians and baby bloggers have written volumes about the first three months of a newborn’s life, even coining the term fourth trimester to describe the development milestones in that period of time. Now new research is encouraging women to think of their own recovery from pregnancy as a fourth trimester too.
Instead of waiting six weeks for a woman’s first, and often only, postpartum checkup, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists now recommends ongoing treatment according to guidelines released in the spring of 2018. The changes call for continual assessment of the woman’s physical, social and psychological well-being. The guidelines better address the needs of all women, including those at risk of falling out of care.
Here at StoneSprings Hospital, our care teams see the fourth trimester as an opportunity to counsel women on long-term health factors. The guidelines suggest a physical exam as well as an assessment of emotional well-being, infant care and feeding, sexuality, sleep, physical recovery from birth, chronic disease management and health maintenance. Many of those checks can be done with a phone call or even a text so new moms don’t have to come in or take time away from their baby.
Our care providers have found that for those struggling with common postpartum issues, like breast feeding or depression, both often the result of sleep deprivation, better care sooner can make a big difference.
“Having a healthcare provider call once a week during this time allows new moms to ask questions and mention challenges,” says Margie Brandquist, Certified Nurse-Midwife at StoneSprings Hospital. “We are able to help them right away.”
Giving this period a name like fourth trimester also helps adjust cultural expectations of new mothers, who are often pressed to quickly return to work, household activities and exercise, even when they are just barely recovered from giving birth. Indeed, Loudoun moms were among those who watched in awe as the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, left the hospital just hours after giving birth to her third child. News coverage praised her appearance but never mentioned that she was going home to around-the-clock nursing care, a suite of nannies and a glam squad for public appearances.
“Having national guidelines for postpartum recovery and care is long overdue,” comments Margie Brandquist “Across the board we know that women, and their babies, benefit from taking time to heal and continuing care. A weekly connection makes sure they are progressing through that trimester as healthily as possible.”
Plan your fourth trimester care at StoneSprings Hospital. Learn more about our Pregnancy and Birth services at stonespringshospital.com/service/pregnancy-and-birth.