10 Things No One Will Tell You About The Fourth Trimester, But I Will

Ad failed to load

The moment I found out I was pregnant, I started studying trimesters like it was my job. I had pages of baby books earmarked and online forums bookmarked and a list of questions to ask my doctor. Unfortunately, the fourth trimester was left out of my extensive research. Like everyone else, after labor and delivery my focus shifted to my baby, and I didn't realize just how taxing postpartum life would be. Firsthand experience can be unkind, but it's also why I can confidently say there are things no one will tell you about the fourth trimester, that I will. Things that are left out of the baby books or just passed over, in favor of chapters about breastfeeding, co-sleeping and other baby-related happenings. Things that every mother, and every partner, should know.

I had a very difficult pregnancy, so I was more than ready for it to end and for my son to enter the world. I was so excited, in fact, that I completely forgot that I would have to actually recover from labor and delivery. Unlike the movies or television shows I have watched throughout the years, I didn't walk out of the hospital in my pre-baby pants, feeling no pain or discomfort, confident in my parenting abilities. In fact, I felt and reluctantly experienced the exact opposite. So, when I took that first postpartum shower and saw my body — the same body that felt like it had been ran over by multiple vehicles — I was shocked. When I couldn't move without being in excrutiating pain, I was disheartened. When I was lost in a sea of relentless postpartum hormones, I was confused.

So, in an attempt to be transparent and because feeling that shocked and disheartened and confused about your body, and your mindset, after giving birth isn't fun; here are just a few things I think every woman (and every parenting partner) needs to know about the fourth trimester. The devil you know beats the devil you don't, my friends.

Ad failed to load

It's Just As Uncomfortable As The Third Trimester...


Every pregnancy is different, but the last few weeks of my third trimester were absolute hell on earth. My entire body hurt; I was so uncomfortable; I couldn't sleep; I was anxious. Basically, I wasn't having a very good time and couldn't wait for my pregnancy to end and my child to arrive.

Then he arrived and, well, my entire body hurt; I was so uncomfortable; I couldn't sleep; I was anxious. The end of your last trimester and the fourth trimester are basically the same. The only difference, honestly, is that there's a baby in the mix.

...If Not More So

I didn't anticipate being as sore as I was after labor and delivery. But holy hot hell, did I hurt in places I didn't know could hurt. I had used so many muscles to push my son into the world, that my entire body felt like it had been ran over by a semi-truck. Twice.

It's difficult to take care of a new baby when you're that sore (and I can't even begin to imagine how you c-section mothers do it and consider you all warrior women). If you thought you were uncomfortable during the end of your pregnancy, just wait until the fourth trimester. That's when the "real" fun begins.

You'll Look Like You're Still Pregnant


I'll never forget taking a shower the day after my son was born. I had "survived" the first night of his life and felt comfortable leaving him in the hospital room with his father while I took a quick (and much-needed) shower. I stripped down in that tiny hospital room bathroom, only to look down at my stomach and wonder if I had given birth at all.

Thanks to television shows and movies that show women walking out of a hospital after having a baby in a size 00 pair of jeans, as if their body had never been pregnant, I had thought my stomach would magically be "back to normal." Nope. I still looked pregnant, and I was shocked. I cried right then and there, completely detached from a body I no longer recognized. Learning to love your postpartum body is hard, and the misrepresentation of the fourth trimester in mainstream media definitely doesn't help.

Ad failed to load

You'll Need Just As Much Support As When You Were Pregnant

As one might expect, focus shifts from the pregnant woman to the newborn once a brand new baby is born. Suddenly, it's the baby who gets all the attention and the baby everyone wants to see and the baby everyone asks to help out with. Make no mistake, though; you still need just as much help and support in your fourth trimester as you did when you were pregnant. You're going to be sore, in need of physical recovery, in a sea of relentless hormones, sleep-deprived and trying to adjust to motherhood. Do. Not. Be. Afraid. To. Ask. For. Help.

Let people bring over meals and let people clean your house and (if you're comfortable) let people take the baby for an hour or two so you can rest. Your body (and your mind) have been through a very demanding experience. A woman shouldn't be "on her own" the moment that baby arrives.

Your Baby Will Want To Be Held, By You, Constantly...


I underestimated just how much my son would want to be held, and by me and only me. Not that I'm necessarily complaining, as my arms were they only place I knew my son was absolutely safe. However, when trying to go to the bathroom or make a meal or take a bathroom break, a newborn who needed to be held by mom proved to be difficult.

...So You Might Miss The Days When You Could Carry Them In Your Stomach

While I was so glad my son was outside of my body and in the world, I did have my moments when it just felt easier for him to be back in my stomach. I felt like he was safer in there; I felt like he was much easier to transport to and from places; I felt like my stomach was the only place I knew I could protect him absolutely, 100 percent of the time. Motherhood is weird, you guys. You wait for the day you're no loner pregnant, only to somewhat wish you were still pregnant. Ugh.

Ad failed to load

There Will Be A Lot Of Bleeding


Postpartum bleeding is relentless. I mean man, I was always in awe of women's bodies for bleeding as much as they do during menstruation while not, you know, dying, but postpartum bleeding is an entirely new ballgame.

Of course, you should pay attention to your postpartum bleeding. If you're soaking more than one sanitary pad in an hour, if you're bleeding bright red blood for longer than four days after delivery, or you're passing clots bigger than a gold ball, you need to contact your doctor immediately.

You'll Still Contract (Especially If You're Breastfeeding)

The contractions don't end once your baby arrives. In fact, if you breastfeed, you'll probably feel your uterus contract every time you feed your baby (which is why you'll probably bleed during those first few breastfeeding sessions, too).

These cramps (or contractions) are at their most intense during the first two or three days after giving birth. By the end of the third day, they should taper off. However, it's worth nothing that it can take up to six weeks (or sometimes even longer) for your uterus to return to it's normal size.

You Won't Be Sleeping Very Often


Sleep will be but a distant dream, my friends. This is not a revelation by any means, but it's always worth repeating. Find time to rest (if and when you can). Sleep is an important part of your postpartum recovery, which is why the fact that you won't be getting too many of it is the cruelest fourth trimester joke of them all.

Ad failed to load

Our Society Doesn't Support You As Much As It Should

Unfortunately, society doesn't seem to support mothers once their babies are born and they're no longer pregnant. The United States is the only industrialized nation without mandatory paid family leave. Women aren't given the time to recover from labor and delivery — and adjust to motherhood — without fear of losing their jobs or being unable to pay bills, and partners aren't given the time off from work to assist and support the postpartum mother in their life. Only 5 percent of low-wage workers receive maternity leave of any kind, paid or unpaid. An estimated 25 percent of women go back to work 10 days after having a baby, even though a recommended six weeks rest, at home, after labor and delivery is needed for a full recovery.

As a country, we could be doing much more to support women in their fourth trimester. Until that day comes, however, the best you can do is have a solid support system around you, ask for help when you need it, and rest.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

7 Things A Mom Really Means When She Says She Doesn't Want Anything On Mother's Day

Every year my family asks me what I want for Mother's Day, and every single year I tell them the same thing: Nothing. So, by now, they know that when I say "nothing" I absolutely do not mean "nothing." In fact, there are more than a few things a mom …
By Candace Ganger

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills