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Sharp Health News

Navigating the ‘fourth trimester’

Jan. 30, 2019

Navigating the ‘fourth trimester’

Many moms spend a significant amount of time preparing for the birth of their child. They prepare the nursery, buy the latest baby products and even create a birth plan for their delivery. But many overlook preparing for their own postpartum recovery.

“Moms focus most of their energy on the new challenges of motherhood, all too often discounting the change and stress their body has gone through during pregnancy and delivery,” says Nicole Giangregorio, manager of women’s education at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns.

The first three months after delivery, sometimes called the “fourth trimester,” is a crucial time of healing for new moms, Giangregorio says. When moms, along with their partners, make their health and healing a priority during this time, they set themselves up for a more successful postpartum journey.

One way women can navigate the fourth trimester successfully is by better understanding the changes occurring in their postpartum bodies. Here are a few common experiences that women have during this period:

  • Soreness in the vaginal region that can last for several weeks
  • Vaginal bleeding as the body removes extra blood and tissue it needed to support the baby
  • Tenderness from an episiotomy (a surgical cut often made during childbirth to aid in delivery)
  • Discomfort from breastfeeding during the first few weeks
  • Postpartum contractions that occur as a woman’s uterus works to return to its pre-pregnancy size
  • Bladder issues due to softened and stretched pelvic muscles
  • Thinning hair caused by hormonal changes
  • Lightening of areas of the skin that became darker while pregnant, including the linea nigra (a linear hyperpigmentation that commonly appears on the abdomen during pregnancy)

At Sharp Mary Birch’s Fourth Trimester Workshop, new moms and their partners can learn about these bodily changes and how to recognize symptoms of common postpartum conditions, as well as receive guidance on how to safely return to exercise without causing injury.

“Understanding the physical changes new moms are going through during the fourth trimester can help couples take active measures in promoting healthy outcomes for all,” says Giangregorio. “When mom and partner take steps to promote self-care, set healthy expectations and create an adequate support system, they are more likely to experience a successful transition into parenthood.”

Learn more about Sharp Mary Birch’s fourth trimester workshop.

For the news media: To talk with Nicole Giangregorio about the fourth trimester for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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