The 4th Trimester: Postpartum Recovery During a Global Pandemic

There has been increasing awareness of the significance of the postpartum period as a time of recovery for both moms and newborns, but it’s clear that there are still many mothers who are struggling during the first 6-8 weeks after giving birth. Our current norm is for expecting parents to spend a lot of time preparing for their newborn’s needs, including setting up a nursery, purchasing baby furniture and supplies, and choosing a pediatrician.

The downside of living in such a “baby-focused” culture is that mothers are often unprepared for the myriad of physical, mental, and emotional changes that they will personally experience after giving birth. This postpartum period of transition to motherhood has recently been coined the “4th trimester.”  

Common physical changes experienced by women during the “4th trimester” include uterine cramping, vaginal and rectal soreness and pain, breast engorgement, edema (swelling of extremities), and problems with bladder control. Mental and emotional changes experienced by new mothers during this period include fatigue, being stressed and overwhelmed, feeling isolated, and hormonally-induced mood changes such as the “baby blues.” 

Aeroflow Breastpumps recently surveyed 394 women about their postpartum recovery experiences and found that 50% of moms did not feel prepared for what to expect and how to care for their bodies in the first six postpartum weeks. Their most common postpartum struggles included breastfeeding (66%), postpartum depression or anxiety (48%), lack of social support/isolation (39%), newborn care (28%), and complications/concerns with postpartum healing (24%).  Additionally, 9 out of 10 respondents in Aeroflow’s survey felt that the current system of educating mothers about what to expect during the postpartum period, along with available resources, needs to be improved.  

Jessica Madden
Jessica Madden
Dr. Madden is a board-certified pediatrician and neonatologist who has been taking care of newborn babies for over 15 years. She is currently on staff in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. She also provides in-home newborn medicine and lactation support to new mamas and is currently working to become an IBCLC.

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