How to Make a ‘Fourth Trimester’ Plan for Pregnancy

November 21, 2023
"How to Make a ‘Fourth Trimester’ Plan for Pregnancy"

The weeks after birth can be just as important as when you were pregnant. Here’s how to be ready.  

We’re used to thinking of pregnancy in trimesters—three periods with their own milestones and challenges. But the months after birth are also important for new mothers, enough so that some healthcare providers are calling it the “fourth trimester.”  

Dr. Jalika Breaux is one of those providers. She’s a psychologist and faculty member at American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine, which is part of Adtalem Global Education.  

The 12 weeks after a parent gives birth have moments of incredible joy. Those weeks can also be challenging and stressful,” she says. “Eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly are challenging enough on a day-to-day basis. With a newborn or newborns, self-care can be overwhelming.

A Five-Part Plan for the Fourth Trimester 

Planning for the months after birth doesn’t need to be formal, says Dr. Breaux. Here are five areas she recommends planning for.  

  1. Social Support: Who can you rely on when your baby arrives? This could be your partner, but also parents, siblings, friends, or other safe people who have offered to help as you recover.  

  1. Shopping and Cooking: Even basic nutrition and hydration can be challenging with an infant. Think about who can help you get healthy foods, whether it’s a meal service, a community meal train, or a delivery from someone who’s asked what they can do help. Don’t forget to freeze some meals for when help slows down.  

  1. Support for Others in Your Household: If you have other children or pets, they’ll need care too during those first few hectic months. Planning for their care now can take significant stress off you later.  

  1. Self-Care: Have someone who can take a shift with the baby so you can sleep. Good sleep can improve your mental health, and improving your mental health can improve your sleep. Also important is having strategies for stress management and mindfulness. “Mindfulness, which can be defined as nonjudgmental awareness, doesn’t need to be at a designated place and time. You can do it while bonding with your baby,” says Dr. Breaux. “You can look at your baby’s face and count every eyelash, trying to be really present.” 

  1. Financial Planning: Babies come with new expenses that can stress any budget. Plan ahead for how you will make ends meet during a planned or unplanned work absence. Talk with your employer about options like the Family and Medical Leave Act. If you need assistance, talk with your healthcare provider about aid you might qualify for, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).  

Self-care also needs to include a plan for mothers to get to their own doctor visits and knowing the symptoms of physical problems like excessive bleeding or high blood pressure, as well as the signs of postpartum depression.  

“Moms are often reluctant to admit when they are struggling due to stigma and not knowing whether something is normal or not,” she says.

Women should not feel ashamed of wanting additional support, and they should not delay because it can save their life or their baby’s.

About Dr. Jalika Breaux 

"Dr. Jalika Breaux"

Dr. Breaux is an expert in clinical-community psychology. She teaches behavioral science and clinical medicine at American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine. Prior to that, she worked at a Veterans Administration hospital integrating mental health into primary care, including pre- and postnatal.  

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