Fourth Trimester Recap
It’s been 12 weeks since I had Miles, so I thought it was important to talk about what is termed the “fourth trimester,” or, the three months immediately following the birth of your baby. I shared some info about the very immediate in Miles’ birth story as well as the post I wrote about what I didn’t know about pregnancy, but since it’s been a couple months since then, I wanted to give a more complete picture.
Please note that this is my experience and may differ from someone else’s. We all recover differently, so don’t take my word as law.
What I think it important to emphasize is that despite my not knowing much about pregnancy when it was happening and learning along the way, I feel like even less attention is given to a woman’s body during this postpartum period. I’m not trying to be negative, but just want to make sure to talk about it since that’s what I love to do. If there’s one piece of advice I can give to postpartum moms, it’s take responsibility for your health during this time. Ask questions, do research, and just learn about what your body has just gone through and how it heals.
I recovered from my c-section pretty quickly, something I attribute to my level of activity prior to baby. I was walking in the hospital the next day, albeit slowly, but each day felt better than the last. Neil helped out a ton at home and exclusively walked Donut for a good month or more until I felt capable of taking her on my own. As my hormones worked on regulating themselves, I welcomed back those lovely night sweats which thankfully cleared up in a couple weeks. You may remember me talking about developing wrist issues — carpal tunnel in my right and what turned out to be De Quervain’s tenosynovitis (“mother’s thumb”) in my left. The carpal tunnel lingered, but went away after a few weeks. My left thumb, however, became more painful as I held and fed him — things that are kind of important in taking care of a child. I made an appointment at a local hand doctor and requested a cortisone shot, something that was recommended to me by several people who had developed the same condition. The pain was gone the following day and hasn’t been back since.
Something I learned about c-section scars is that they need to be massaged on a regular basis in order to help break up scar tissue that may have developed (and there always is.) Several layers of muscle are cut through to help deliver your baby, and when that heals, scar tissue can lead to various dysfunctions if not addressed. At my two week check up to see how the incision was doing, I was told to massage the scar daily in any and all varieties of movements — up and down, side to side, diagonally, rolling the skin, etc. Some of those were easier than others and should only be done until you start to feel discomfort. My scar is still very tight, but I’m working with a physical therapist to help mobilize it. On my own, I’m using a combination of Bio-Oil to help minimize the scar appearance and also as a lubricant for me to massage it. At night, I am using silicone scar sheets that came highly recommended. I bought these ones at Walgreens, but then found out that they make ones specifically for c-section scars so they are longer. Right now I have to cut the ones I bought to make them fit, so once I use those up I will buy the other ones.
(the scar is the one at the bottom, not the line at the top that I got from hunching over before this picture)
I started seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist which is something that I think everyone should do postpartum. In fact, it’s a regular part of postpartum care in other countries. I felt that I knew so little about pelvic floor issues after having a baby, which is why I wanted to get checked out by a professional as well as getting certified myself as a postpartum corrective exercise specialist. It’s something that is barely discussed, but so important for recovering mothers. I didn’t have any specific pelvic floor issues such as pain or incontinence, but I like to have all the information I can and wanted to protect myself going back into exercise, so I made an appointment. Thankfully, any treatment is free of charge this year because we hit our out of pocket from having a baby. I’ll take it. Once I’m done with therapy in about a month and a half, I’ll write about my experience. Please let me know if you have any questions before then!
I got my period back after about 8 weeks. Typically, if you’re not breastfeeding, it will return somewhere around 6-8 weeks. If you are breastfeeding, it will likely take longer and may not return at all until you’re done. From that you can probably figure out that our whole breastfeeding, pumping, and formula supplementation became formula only after about six weeks. It’s a decision that I cried about one time, then realized that this was the best solution for all of us and moved on. Although I’ve heard that breastfeeding is so much easier because you don’t have to pack bottles and formula, I actually feel like it’s so much harder because you’re the only one who can feed your baby, you have to pump to keep your milk supply up if you’re away for normal feeding times, and there’s the issue of finding places to do so if you’re out in public. BIG PROPS to beastfeeding mamas, but this solution gave all of us so much relief when I made it.
6 days postpartum
I am planning a more detailed post on postpartum exercise, but at 12 weeks I’m still modifying movement to be on the safe side, which is something I’m going to pat myself on the back for. Typically, I’m impatient with recovery of any kind and jump back into things. This is why when I get injured, I’m usually out of commission completely until the issue is resolved. With pregnancy, I wanted to be smart about returning because of what I have learned. Even though I’m not experiencing issues now, too much too soon can actually lead to diastasis (abdominal separation) or prolapse of things like the rectum, uterus, and bladder. To be clear, some abdominal separation is normal during pregnancy; it’s only an issue postpartum if the separation is more than two finger-widths apart. I was cleared for exercise at 6 weeks, but by knowing my body, I knew that it wasn’t ready for what I had been doing before. I was honestly a little disappointed in that appointment, because I was cleared immediately by demonstrating that I could do one kegel. I felt as though my questions about pelvic floor therapy were irrelevant and I had to ask specifically if she could check for any diastasis, which she did by checking one place vs. the three where it can occur and then expressed “you’re fine.” Perhaps that’s more of a pelvic floor PT’s job, but I never would have even known that if I hadn’t done my research on it in the first place. (For reference, you can check for any diastasis yourself, but I just wanted lots of opinions). I’ll cover all this in more detail in my exercise post, and just like pelvic floor therapy, if you have any questions, please drop them in the comments or shoot me an email!
Emotionally, I’m doing wonderfully. I have no idea how that happened, but I’m very happy with the way life is right now. I’d like to be able to get back to this blog a little more consistently, and I’m working on more of a strategy for that. I love watching him learn and grow and the fears I had about having a boy are a thing of the past. I’m even excited about growing our family even more, but hitting the brakes on that one for a hot minute. 🙂
So that’s what we’ve been up to over here. Again, if you’re pregnant or planning on getting pregnant, make sure to take care of yourself during this period of time as well. We need healthy moms to raise healthy babies. 🙂