Everyone knows that pregnancy lasts for three trimesters, or about nine months total. So what is the “fourth trimester” exactly? The fourth trimester is considered the 12 weeks after giving birth and directly following the third trimester. Recently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released a revised Committee Opinion that proposed a change to postpartum care, and here’s what all parents need to know.

Chances are that you’re already very well acquainted with postpartum OB-GYN check-up routine. You go home from that whole big “giving birth” thing, begin the postpartum healing process (no matter what type of delivery you’ve had) and head back to the doc’s office six weeks later for a check-up. Well, now it seems like that might not be the best way to go.

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The ACOG now believes that postpartum care shouldn’t stop at just one visit. And it shouldn’t wait until six weeks after delivery to start. Instead, new mamas should continue to have contact with their OB-GYNs (or another healthcare provider) during the first three weeks after having baby.

The new “fourth trimester” care plan also includes ongoing care and a comprehensive follow-up doctor’s visit by 12-weeks postpartum. But this isn’t the end of a woman’s care. The postpartum follow-up is more of a transition from the fourth trimester to the new mama’s ongoing woman-care. During the follow-up the ACOG recommends the medical provider complete a full assessment of the woman’s mood/emotional well-being, contraceptive care/birth spacing, physical birth recovery, sleep/fatigue, infant care/feeding issues, disease management and ongoing health maintenance.

What do you think about the new “fourth trimester” guidelines? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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—Erica Loop

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