Parents-to-be usually track their pregnancy by counting down the three trimesters leading up to the birth of their child. But many experts now recognize a “fourth trimester,” those important months of transition after baby is born, when they are learning to care for a totally-dependent little human and adjusting to the new demands of parenthood.
Challenges during the fourth trimester vary, but most often include sleep deprivation and fatigue, physically healing from childbirth, learning to care for a newborn, processing hormonal changes, and evaluating personal and professional identities. In addition, 20 to 25% of new mothers experience postpartum depression or anxiety and either don’t recognize it or don’t feel comfortable seeking help for it.
“It’s a stage in life where everything goes sideways,” said Jennie Bever, executive director of 4th Trimester Arizona. “We need to make sure the moms who do need help feel safe asking for it.”
Bever said the best way to create that comfort level is to build awareness that struggles are normal so that parents feel supported during a phase of life every new parent experiences.
“We’re all going through the same things,” she said.
Bever helped to create the 4th Trimester Arizona organization to bring more attention to this important time and connect new parents with resources to feel more confident. They also organize an annual conference held in Maricopa County to offer parents information, resources and connection with other families experiencing similar new parent challenges.
As Arizona’s early childhood agency, First Things First recognizes the important first few months in a newborn’s life. Because of this, FTF is a sponsor of the third annual 4th Trimester Arizona Conference on Saturday, March 7 in Mesa. FTF staff will share information and resources with attendees, which, along with parents and caregivers, will include doulas, midwives, lactation consultants and other health care providers.
One of the resources to be shared includes the Birth to Five Helpline, which is available at no cost with support from FTF, to all new parents across Arizona.
The Helpline, which can be reached at 877-705-KIDS, allows parents to speak with a specialist about early childhood issues, including pregnancy and postpartum support. Connections to resources available through the Helpline include postpartum, couples and dad support groups; breastfeeding supports, educational classes and basic needs resources.
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