The 3rd Trimester vs. The 4th Trimester


Now, before you say "Sara, I know you don't have kids but as a healthcare provider you should know there are only 3 trimesters," I urge you to continue reading, because you are exactly who needs to hear this.

The 4th Trimester


The 4th Trimester is a term coined by Dr. Harvey Karp and refers to the first 3 months after a baby's is born. Dr. Karp was mainly referring to the baby when using this term, but I don't want to talk about babies right now. (Ok that is a lie I always want to talk about babies because they are so darn cute.) I want to talk about the mamas and what the 4th trimester means for them.


A few things that are commonly spoken about/known about newborn babies


- They just went through a "traumatic" event (birth)

- They may not be physically quite ready for everything their new environment demands of them

- They are changing and developing every day

- That development may take time, but we want to watch for any signs of that stopping or slowing

- They need to go to the doctor for check-ups frequently, even if everything looks and feels ok for them


A few things we need to remember about postpartum mamas


- They just went through a "traumatic" event (birth)

- They may not be physically quite ready for everything their new environment demands of them

- They are changing and recovering every day

- That recovery may take time, but we want to watch for any signs and symptoms of that stopping or slowing

And most important- yet most often forgotten


- They NEED to go to the doctor for check-ups frequently, even if everything looks and feels ok for them.





The 3rd vs. the 4th Trimester


In the 3rd trimester (as well as the 2nd or 1st), if an expectant mom had an onset of stomach or pelvic pain, or began to experience new symptoms like digestive issues, incontinence issues, breast pain etc. they would likely seek medical help, or at least mention it at a doctor's appointment. Yet, once the baby is born this seems to go out the window.


New moms often experience these symptoms and more, yet think, "as long as my baby is ok, I will be ok." and just hope that they will feel better in time. More often than not, these symptoms do not go away, and the woman just accepts them as her new normal, or potentially gets pregnant again and the cycle begins again.


If you recently had a baby or plan to, or are a woman or even know a woman, a few things you should look out for

-Pelvic pain

-Painful intercourse

-Difficulty going/difficulty controlling going to the bathroom

-Being unable to gradually get back to exercise/activity

-Being unable to gradually lose the baby weight

-Digestive issues that do not improve over time

-Persistent breast pain


Although these symptoms are commonly accepted, that does not mean they are normal and unchangeable. I am a strong advocate for a woman to see a medical team as often, if not more often in the 4th trimester than she could in the 3rd to address and minimize or eliminate these symptoms as quickly as possible so they can fully enjoy their new family.


Could you imagine a professional athlete having an accident during which muscles were ripped and organs were shifted around, and not seeing a doctor or rehab team? I don't want to compare the beautiful process of birth to an injury situation, but medically, it is not that different. New moms, no matter how active they were before are about to be in a situation comparable to that of a professional athlete - their baby is depending on them to be mobile and healthy.


So new moms, stopping sitting on the bench and thinking "I'll get in the game when I'm ready" and call your doctor, call a women's health PT and get yourself healthy. Your new baby is depending on you.




If you want more information about how physical therapy can help, or need help finding a qualified therapist in your area please reach out to me at info@perfecttenpt.com.




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