So much of pregnancy is planning—pregnancy announcements, baby names, baby showers, and birth plans. It's easy to forget that the planning doesn't stop once the baby arrives, it's just beginning. The fourth trimester isn't something new parents are often taught about upfront, but they should be. Too often, new moms are left to figure out how to heal—and how to take care of a new baby—alone.
New mother and medical student Korrine Sky was confronted with this gap in information, and the overwhelming feeling of being unprepared, after she gave birth in March. Though her pregnancy went smoothly, she felt under-informed. "I had written things down during the course of my pregnancy because I didn't share my pregnancy with anyone, mainly because I was really overwhelmed with fear and anxiety," says Sky, a second-year medical student who lives in Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
In early December, her thread, "Postpartum: all the sh*t nobody tells you," went viral. In it, she addressed rarely-discussed experiences like itching that can happen after having an epidural, pain after C-sections, breastfeeding, and postpartum hair loss. Almost instantly, the thread was retweeted more than 27,000 times and nearly 60,000 people liked it. The public response proves that these experiences are common and that new and expectant moms want to be informed about all of the possible challenges they may face.
This isn't the first time one of Sky's Twitter threads went viral. In May, a thread about the challenges Black moms face as they're giving birth amassed thousands of likes and retweets. Sky says she felt uniquely compelled to teach other moms about these disparities. "During my pregnancy a lot of Black women who were pregnant around the same time as me died, '' she says, naming content creator and dancer Nicole Thea and nurse Mary Agyapong who both died shortly after giving birth.
Pregnancy can be nerve-wracking for Black moms, especially when Black maternity is rarely discussed outside of crisis. Unfortunately, those risks don't disappear after delivery.
Jaleen Sims, a board-certified OB-GYN at Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center in Jackson, Mississippi says people should know they are not out of the "woods" just because they've given birth. She says conditions like preeclampsia, peripartum cardiomyopathy, and mental health conditions like baby blues, depression, and psychosis are all still concerns.
"Things to look out for are vision changes, headaches, unresolved by Tylenol/ibuprofen, pain under the right breast, seizure-like activity, shortness of breath, leading to sleeping on more pillows than normal, frequent crying spells, and significant mood swings," says Sims.
Online, Twitter users commented on Sky's thread about their own experiences with the physical and emotional changes of parenthood. Many report loneliness and feeling overwhelmed. But Sims says having support can help mitigate some of the risks associated with the fourth trimester. Trying to "get back to normal" too soon after giving birth can lead to mental health concerns and elevated blood pressure. Services like childcare, meal delivery and therapy can help ease burdens on new parents, especially those who are facing postpartum in combination with other medical issues.
"If someone has medical concerns that were present prior to pregnancy, like diabetes, high blood pressure or depression, there's an increased risk," Sims says. She suggests that new parents with these kinds of preexisting conditions connect with their regular care providers as soon as possible after birth.
Sky is hoping to be able to help more women once she is an OB-GYN. She has already received her doula certification and, in the meantime, she's using her platform to spread awareness on aspects of birth and postpartum. She's also sharing birth plan templates to help new parents advocate for themselves.
There's so much expectant and new parents have to learn. Threads like Sky's give them a head start.
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