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The Fourth Trimester

A mother holding her baby on her shoulder during the fourth trimester.

By Dr. Fareen Koorjee, NMD

The fourth trimester is a special time of transition for both mother and baby. A time when the body must work—mentally, emotionally, and physically—to return to its natural state of homeostasis or balance after the big task of giving birth. Postpartum care is so important for healthy development of baby and healthy mental, emotional and physical wellbeing of mom.

For many traditional cultures, these three months after birth are an important time of support for the new mom and a time to nourish her body, mind, and spirit. Too often here in the US, it is a time that is overlooked by western medical care and the busyness of our modern culture. Postnatal depletion can result when a new mom’s body gives support for the growth of her baby both after giving birth and while breastfeeding, if she doesn’t take time to pause for rest, nourishment, self-care and connection.

Simple, warm nourishing foods like rice, vegetable protein and cooked veggies, are important in these first few months to strengthen the new mom’s digestive fire and nourish the body. Fennel and fenugreek tea, and dates will build strength and vitality for healthy milk production. Keeping healthy snacks and staying hydrated can help to keep blood sugars balanced and stave off dehydration and fatigue. Dairy, beans, soy, onions, garlic, and brassica vegetables can often cause gas for
babies and should be avoided if colic is an issue.

Laying a solid foundation of nutrient support through supplements is important for mental and physical health postpartum when the body is undergoing such a big shift in hormones. Just as it was important to take a prenatal during pregnancy, it is equally important to take good quality postnatal nutrient support. Nutrients that are specific for post-natal needs such as methylated B vitamins which are involved in energy and neurotransmitter production, (neurotransmitters are hormones for the brain that keep our mood stable and properly regulated); and antioxidants like vitamin C and E which are important for proper immune and lung development in newborns.

In addition to a good postnatal vitamin, a clean fish oil with both EPA and DHA for healthy brain and nervous system development, vitamin D3 which is involved in immune and hormone health, and a good quality probiotic are all important postnatal supplement support. If there was any loss of blood in pregnancy or risk of anemia postpartum, a good iron (carries oxygen to the cells of the body) support would also be necessary.

A new mom shouldn’t be alone for extended periods of time during the first few weeks after birth. If family or friends support isn’t available, then considering a postpartum doula can be helpful to provide support for household chores, taking care of the new baby, and can provide a space for emotional support for the new mom to express any trauma from the delivery of her baby or challenges she is experiencing post-delivery. Having this emotional support can be key to help decrease any overwhelm that may come up during this period. Having access to an experienced lactation consultant is also important to preserve mom’s healthy milk
supply.

Sleep deprivation can be one of the biggest culprits of postnatal depletion. No matter how tempting it is to try to get things done when your baby is sleeping, sleeping when your baby sleeps is key to restoring strength and resilience.

Daily Abhyanga (oil massage) helps to ground a new mom allowing her to be fully present in her new role.

A new child is a blessing to the family and to the world for the unique gifts only this the child has to share. Providing the support and space for a new mother to properly heal and nourish herself, will give her the strength and emotional wellbeing to provide this new child the space to blossom.

Dr. Fareen Koorjee is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor / Physician and the Director of the Women's Clinic at Medical Institute of Integrative Wellness in Santa Monica. 

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