How to protect your mental health in the fourth trimester
Having a new baby can be a very overwhelming experience, both physically and mentally.
Protecting your mental wellbeing in the fourth trimester – the first three months of your baby’s life – is vital so make sure you take some time to look after yourself as well as your newborn. It can also be a stressful and emotional time for your partner too so do what you can to support and care for each other.
1. Accept your emotions
One of the most helpful things you can is to recognise this time of your life will be an emotional rollercoaster. As well as dealing with hormonal changes, you will be adjusting to your new role looking after a tiny human who requires round-the-clock care. New parents often feel pressure to elated and grateful about their new arrival, which can be confusing when they may also be experiencing a range of other negative feelings at the same time. By accepting that it is totally normal to feel out of balance during the first few months, you are giving yourself permission to feel sad, angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, stressed or whatever other emotion you feel.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you are struggling to cope or finding your emotions hard to deal with, talking to someone will help. This might mean sharing how you are feeling with a family member or close friend or it could mean talking to your midwife, health visitor or GP. New parents often worry that if they tell someone they are struggling, they will be judged but this isn’t the case at all. There is a lot of help available but you need to be honest about how you are feeling. If you have family and friends who have offered practical help like cooking meals, helping with housework or caring for your older children, take them up on these offers while you settle in to parenthood.
3. Look after yourself as well as your baby
When you have a newborn, it can feel like you are constantly feeding them, changing their nappies and trying to settle them to sleep. It can feel like you have no time at all to look after your own basic needs. But it is important that you make sure you drink lots of water, eat regularly, stay active and get as much sleep as you can so you can function properly and stay well. Accept any offers of help from family and friends and leave any tasks which aren’t urgent. No one will care if your house is a mess, you and your baby’s needs come first.
4. Remember this stage will pass
The fourth trimester can be hard work but remember it won’t last forever. Your baby will eventually fall into a less demanding routine with feeding and sleeping and you will become more confident at meeting their needs. Don’t compare yourself to other people you may see out and about or on social media who look as if they find parenthood easy. Everyone has their own challenges to overcome.