Nasiba On: The Fourth Trimester

Having recently given birth to Baby #3, The Tot Founder, Nasiba Adilova, thinks the term, ‘bounce back’ really needs to go. After experiencing postpartum depression and fatigue with her first two children, Nasiba decided to commit to honoring the concept of the fourth trimester in an effort to help her body and mind truly heal.

nasiba adilova

In the US, we usually think about pregnancy in three trimesters. However, many cultures around the world divide it into four, with the fourth being the first three months of your child’s life.

Believe it or not, I only learned about the fourth trimester when I was pregnant with my third just last year. A friend recommended the book, The Fourth Trimester by Kimberley Ann Johnson, to me. It’s a holistic approach and road map for mothers navigating postpartum hormonal changes, both emotional and physical trauma from delivering a baby and building a bond between mother and child. To be completely honest, I was shocked that so little information exists about this period of time for a mother. Most of the resources available are focused on newborns or managing the mental health of a mother. Key word being, ‘manage.’

Even though many women are doing an incredible job of trying to break the stigma around postpartum depression and anxiety, I still feel it is a taboo topic and one that women feel guilty about owning. Because society tells us we are supposed to ‘bounce back’ we feel like it’s our fault when we feel a disconnect with our child, our minds and our bodies. Quietly – we sneak into the doctors office, confess that we aren’t coping and are given something to ‘manage.’ In reality – we just aren’t fully finished with our pregnancy and therefore not actually ready to ‘bounce back.’

Over the past three months, I couldn’t stop asking myself why we as a society celebrate going back to our pre-pregnancy selves instead of taking our time to respect our bodies and truly heal inside and out. The two words, ‘bounce back’ imply that the moment we have our baby, everything returns to normal – our waistline, our life, our kitchen counters, our mental health. This is simply not the case. I’ve met women who feel so sad and guilty about not being on Cloud 9 post birth that their internal stress levels caused them to feel physically ill and in some cases – their milk supply dries out. I can relate and to be honest – I don’t want to go back. I want to spring forward and embrace motherhood whole heartedly.

The fourth trimester is a particularly vulnerable time for new mothers and a period when support is needed most. When you’re 38 weeks pregnant, even strangers are willing to give you their chair, pump your gas or carry your groceries to the car. Suddenly when you don’t look pregnant anymore, the help seems to fade and we are expected to manage on our own.

Donna Walls, RN, BSN, ICCE, IBCLC of the International Childbirth Education Association says,

“In many other cultures, the emphasis is on a prescribed period of time focusing on rest and recovery while friends and family care for the mother and often her family and home. The mother’s only responsibility is caring for her infant. In China, the postpartum time literally means “sitting the month” when new mothers are served nourishing foods aimed at restoring health and supporting lactation. In Korea, the resting period post birth is commonly referred to as “the 100 days of birth” while in Japan the “ansei” means “peace and quiet with pampering” for the first three weeks.

In India, the “confinement” lasts from 40-60 days and includes herbal baths and massages. In Africa, new mothers remain quietly at home for 10-40 days, and in some African countries it can be up to three months with friends and family taking care of her home and other children

In Mexico, “la cuarentena,” translates to “quarantine” and continues for forty days which some studies have shown to encourage infant and mother bonding.”

After reading The Fourth Trimester, I now feel like this is the time is when we should be asking for help the most and focusing on healing our own mind and bodies. While it’s easy to want to 100% focus on your newborn, you cannot give what’s needed if you’re not whole. With my third child, I committed to honor my body by respecting it and showing it love and care.

I chose to practice the Ayurvedic Method during my journey. Still practiced today in India, Ayurvedic medicine is one of the world’s oldest medical systems. My Ayurvedic treatment combined holistic medicines, massage, a tailored diet, specific gentle exercises, and intentional bonding with my baby. Focusing on what I ate throughout my third and fourth trimester was particularly important to me.

During the third trimester, I steered clear of:

  • Gluten
  • Sugar
  • Processed foods
  • Coffee
  • Bananas
  • Mangos

Foods high in sugar can make your baby grow bigger, which makes them harder to deliver. Surprisingly, I had cravings for sweet things this time around though. As long as it wasn’t processed, I didn’t say no. I indulged a little in 50g of dark chocolate or a few dates.

During the fourth trimester I didn’t have any protein for the first two weeks. I added fish, but did not eat much meat, instead opting for soaked grains, bone broth and warm vegetables. I also stayed abstinent from coffee and cruciferous vegetables like cabbage.

Now that I’m on the other side of the fourth trimester, I am so thrilled to say that my body healed quicker compared to the other two times, my mind and spirit remained calm and the bond I share with my daughter feels natural. This is a testament to the simple act of acknowledging that while my baby was done growing inside of me, my body was not done continuing to work miracles. It’s also because instead of trying to go back to where I started, I worked on moving forward; spiritually, physically and emotionally.