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The 4th Trimester – S1 E11

You’ve heard of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy. But what about the 4th trimester? In the weeks following the birth of your baby, both you and your newborn will undergo major emotional and physical changes. And the sudden drop off in care, check-ups, and monitoring might leave you feeling overwhelmed, unsure, and even lonely.

To help you know what to expect during the 4th trimester, host Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez chats with Elizabeth Wood, Co-Founder and Educator at Matrescence 4th Trimester Planning and Support. Elizabeth tells you how you can care for yourself and your baby during the 4th trimester and how partners can lend a helping hand.

Podcast Resources:
Fact Sheet: The 4th Trimester
Guest: Elizabeth Wood
Healthy Families Arizona
Strong Families AZ
Host: Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez
Podcast Credits:

host Host: Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez is the Program Director for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program at the Arizona Department of Health Services.

host Guest: Elizabeth Wood is a Co-Founder and Educator at Matrescence 4th Trimester Planning and Support.


[00:00:00] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:00:00] Welcome to The Parenting Brief. I’m Jessica Stewart Gonzalez, an Arizona working mom and program director for the maternal infant and early childhood home visiting program at the Arizona department of health services. On this podcast, we’re here to help you conquer your parenting fears and give you the tools and confidence to raise your growing family. From pregnancy to the toddler years, this show has tips to help you [00:00:30] succeed on your parenting journey.

Thank you for joining us for another episode of The Parenting Brief. Today’s show is for expecting parents and for your partner, friends and family who are trying to patiently await the arrival of your little baby. As you’ve gone through your pregnancy you’ve been swamped with information from your doctor, friends, family, things you probably shouldn’t have [00:01:00] Googled, mom blogs and mommy groups about how to get through the first, second and third trimesters. But what about the fourth trimester? Now you’re probably thinking, wait, there’s a fourth trimester? And yes, there is. During the weeks following the birth of your little one your baby will adjust to being out in this great big world, and you as a mom will undergo many physical and emotional changes yourself. Postpartum can be a challenging time for many moms. The sudden drop-off in care once you [00:01:30] take your little one home and the sudden shift from others worrying about how you are doing to seemingly only asking about how the baby is doing can feel lonely and scary, especially if this is your first baby. But don’t worry up next, we have advice, guidance, and tips for helping you and your baby navigate the amazing fourth trimester. And for those partners, friends, and family, how you can support mom and baby through this time.

[00:02:00] Today we’re joined by Elizabeth Wood. She’s the co-founder and educator at Matrescence Fourth Trimester Planning and Support, and also the mother of two daughters. For all the moms listening, let’s start by outlining each of the postnatal stages.

Elizabeth Wood: [00:02:16] I would say this is one of those questions that we don’t really think about while we’re pregnant

and so, I’m so glad that you’ve asked most of us experienced this kind of emotional high within the first two hours or so after our babies are born and we’re riding [00:02:30] that oxytocin high and we have. So much energy and we’re thinking, why did they tell me you have to sleep when the baby sleeps? Like this is great.

And then that kind of settles out around day three. And so, on day three is actually the largest hormonal shift that any human ever experiences in a lifetime. And it’s the equivalent of going from taking 100 birth control pills to nothing. And so, there’s this huge hormonal plummet that happens around day three,

and that’s what’s termed formally as the [00:03:00] baby blues, where you just have this flurry of emotions inside of you that all are sitting yet are conflicting and so many moms up to 80% of moms experience that. And then we get to about six weeks postpartum. In that timeframe, most of your organs and all of the changes that have occurred during pregnancy have settled to their new non-pregnant state.

And so medical professionals will say about six weeks is your fourth trimester [00:03:30] per se, and it just means that most of the things that are going to go back to a non-pregnant state have done so with a couple exceptions. And then I think it’s really important to call out there are a number of hormonal shifts that happen.

I already mentioned day three as the largest one. There’s also another one at week three of a hormonal shift. And then there’s another one at month three. So, I think those are three really important dates, if you will, to maybe keep on your calendar or to outline with your partner, so [00:04:00] that you’re aware that if you’re feeling a bit more wobbly on any of those threes, day three week, three month, three, this is not your forever, and it’s just your hormones coming back to a new non-pregnant state.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:04:11] I really love how you said one mark it on your calendars, but also let your partners know. I see it and know so many women where it’s their responsibility to tell somebody if they’re not feeling well or to be the one to, you know, be honest, when somebody says, “Hey, how are you doing?”

And [00:04:30] yet really making sure that the people who are around us, our partners, our friends, our families, anybody who is around us, is just as knowledgeable, if not more so, so that they can be aware and pay attention to that, I think is so important.

Elizabeth Wood: [00:04:46] That is the key, Jessica, you nailed it right there is that in the fourth trimester, however long you dictate that whether that’s the first six weeks or longer, depending on how you’re feeling, the number one factor to [00:05:00] prevent postpartum depression and anxiety is actually support.

And I think we, as a culture, tend not to want to find support because we tend to think that if we’re asking for help or support, it means that there’s something lacking in us where that couldn’t be further from the truth. And in fact, this is one of the most important times in a woman’s life to have that support surrounding her.

So, her body can fully rest and transition from this non-pregnant state [00:05:30] then to pregnancy and then you’re shifting back to a new non-pregnant state. And I think that is one that goes overlooked. So, whether you have a C-section or your birth vaginally, your placenta, actually, when it detaches, it leaves a wound, the size of a paper plate.

So, you know, like an eight-inch paper plate, that’s what size of wound you have inside your body. And so, if you think about it, like if that wound was on the outside of our body, there is no way anybody would be asking us to go to Target or to make dinner or clean [00:06:00] anything. They would be urging us to lay in bed and do nothing, which is part of why resting for that fourth trimester is so key is because our lochia flow or the blood flow that’s coming out during that fourth trimester is giving us the indication of whether or not we’re healing adequately, or if we’re ripping off the

scabs by doing too much and our blood flow’s increasing. So that’s one thing, certainly to get your partner on board with understanding why it’s important to rest. If you hold up a paper plate to your belly and show them, this is the wound that’s going to be inside of me, [00:06:30] I think that their eyes bulge and they start to go, “Oh, I get it. All right. Yeah. Let’s make a plan, let’s figure out how we can help you rest and fully heal.”

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:06:39] And what led you to build a program to help new mothers through the fourth trimester?

Elizabeth Wood: [00:06:44] So I am a mom of two girls. They’re six and eight now. And I will say I was fortunate enough to have had a very wonderful birth experience with both of them.

And I will say that all of the world started to unravel after [00:07:00] birth with both of them as well. And you would think that, you know, I did it once, right? I would have a better understanding and be able to do it better the second time, but no, not so much. So, for me, it was really having some really difficult moments after both of my daughters were born.

Although that wasn’t enough to push me over the edge, what really like made it come together and the catalyst for it was when I joined a mom and baby workout group. And in that group, I started seeing that I wasn’t the only one struggling. [00:07:30] And in fact, most of the moms that, you know, rolled up and joined the group, they were also just as exhausted and depleted and just under loved on. And so, the group, you know, we brought all those other moms in just like they had brought me in and we loved on each other and created our own village. But I think for me as a scientist, so my background, I think the pattern of all of those women all turning up with a similar issue.

That’s actually kind of what got under my skin and what started making me a bit [00:08:00] angry, honestly, of just the fact of like, this is how we are generally treated as we are coming to the motherhood time period is we’re left alone to kind of figure it out. I guess that was really the catalyst for me to ask, “What does better look like in this fourth trimester period?” And that’s where Matrescence was born from, just that one simple question, “What does better look like?”

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:08:21] So is there anything that we can do to prepare for the fourth trimester? What tips do you have for them?

Elizabeth Wood: [00:08:29] I think number [00:08:30] one is education. And that’s where Matrescence the company was born from.

Cause I don’t have, I have, my background is in physics and actually a master’s in engineering management, which makes no sense to be in this realm, right? But when I really came down to pondering, like what does better look like? What I realized that there’s a huge educational rift here. And it’s almost the black hole of women’s healthcare, where we just don’t acknowledge or don’t talk about enough.

And because so many of us struggle during our fourth trimesters, we often don’t share that with others. And so, I think number [00:09:00] one, if you have those friends or others who have gone before you and have had babies, I think it’s wonderful to be able to open up and say, Hey, I know that the fourth trimester can be rough.

Can you please share like an honest account of what you experienced and then give me your tips and tricks of what worked and what didn’t work? Because I think that knowledge, we can gain from each other is so important and validating so that if we are having a rough patch, it’s not us, that we turn and blame ourselves for it.

It’s part of the process.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:09:29] I [00:09:30] think definitely knowing which questions to ask. And then I was very surprised by the questions. I didn’t know to ask. I had gotten so angry at the breastfeeding process because I didn’t feel like my body was doing what it was supposed to do. And I was so mad that, that the recommendation was to go to a lactation consultant, which I had one and I used one, but then I found myself Googling questions like,

how come humans need a lactation consultant, [00:10:00] but like dogs don’t? Like how all other mammals find a way to give a birth and feed their babies, and I am sitting here at a total loss of what to do and how to do it and who to ask and what questions to ask. And at the point that I started to Google, why other animals don’t need a lactation consultant?

I knew at that point, I was like, I may need to ask for some more help around here.

Elizabeth Wood: [00:10:27] Absolutely. And I think that’s a wonderful question. [00:10:30] I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anybody Googling that before, but I think it makes so much sense, like, right? So why do we? And I think, you know, if your goal is to feed your baby by the breast, I think that’s a wonderful thing.

I love the fact that you had a lactation consultant on hand. Talk about that being a practical thing. That is definitely something, for everyone who attends my educational workshops, we recommend everybody has a lactation consultant if their goal is to breastfeed because so many of us struggle. Right?

And that’s not on us. I struggled as well. And that’s because in our [00:11:00] culture, I mean, you think about it, when was the last time you saw somebody breastfeeding? And our culture we’re taught to cover up. Right? So, we don’t have that benefit of our sisters and aunties and cousins who are constantly feeding in front of us

so, we have that innate knowledge on what breastfeeding looks like and feels like. And so, we internalize this cultural norm which is not conducive to being able to cultivate a breastfeeding relationship as something wrong with us. And instead of saying, yeah, you know, the first time I saw a baby breastfed was when I [00:11:30] was doing it.

So yeah, I mean, of course it’s going to be an art and a science and having somebody who has more experience and seeing what that looks like is the exact kind of advice that we need in that time period.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:11:43] Well, thank you, Elizabeth, for all of your helpful advice today.

Elizabeth Wood: [00:11:46] Thank you, Jessica. I would love to come back and speak more.

Like you said, this is something that certainly doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. And I really appreciate the fact that you’re taking time to focus on it.

[00:12:00] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:12:05] For more information on the fourth trimester, head to the links in the show notes, we have more episodes on the way. So, give The Parenting Brief a follow on your favorite podcast app, and because we can all use some parenting help pass the episode along to the sisters, cousins, daughter’s friends, moms, and dads in your life until next time, this is Jessica.

You’ve got this, Mom. [00:12:30] .

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