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Supporting the 4th Trimester: Postpartum Health

Supporting the 4th Trimester: Postpartum Health
With so much focus on the months leading up to and during pregnancy, the postpartum phase (sometimes referred to as the 4th trimester) is often an afterthought. Yet this is such a nutritionally and emotionally demanding period for both mom and baby. Even with a healthy diet and a comprehensive prenatal supplement throughout pregnancy, giving birth can still leave you depleted. Also, the need for certain nutrients increases postpartum, especially if you’re breastfeeding. And postpartum is not just the weeks immediately following childbirth but can last several months or longer for many!

There are specific nutrients to keep in mind that your body will need in that “4th trimester” to support mom’s physical recovery as well as her mental health. There are also a few lifestyle factors that can promote a sense of wellbeing that I encourage you to incorporate to the best of your ability. But first, my top 4 healing nutrients:

  1. 1. Vitamin D. Low vitamin D has been linked to postpartum depression, anxiety, fatigue, poor immune function, and bone pain/weakness. Taking 4,000IU daily has been associated with higher blood levels and is more likely to get through breast milk to provide baby with the vitamin D they need compared to the outdated recommendations of 600IU.
    • Food sources: fatty fish (wild-caught salmon and sardines are best), egg yolks, fortified dairy, and mushrooms exposed to UV light. Note- even with vitamin D rich foods in your diet, it’s unlike you will get enough through food alone. 


  1. 2. B vitamins are necessary for many of the body’s essential processes, including energy production and forming DNA. One B vitamin worth highlighting for postpartum support is B6 which helps the body make serotonin, the feel-good hormone! This is why low levels of B6 have been associated with postpartum depression. 
    • Food sources: liver, seafood, eggs, green leafy vegetables, legumes, and dairy.


  1. 3. Iron is key to rebuilding blood that was lost during childbirth. This is especially important if you struggled with low iron throughout pregnancy or if you follow a strict vegetarian or vegan diet. If you’re breastfeeding, the iron in your breastmilk supports proper infant thyroid function. 
    • Food sources: oysters, liver, red meat, white beans, and green leafy vegetables.


  1. 4. Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and may protect mom against infection and postpartum depression. If you’re breastfeeding, infants of mothers with a high concentration of DHA in their breast milk are seen to have improved brain and vision development. 
    • Food sources: fatty fish (wild-caught salmon and sardines are best), fortified eggs, dairy, and some types of algae. 
Even with a healthy diet and a comprehensive prenatal supplement throughout pregnancy, giving birth can still leave you depleted.

In addition to nutritional support, there are other things that can help you move through this phase with grace, even if there are bumps along the way! 


  • Find your community. You know the phrase “it takes a village?” This doesn’t just refer to raising a child, it also takes a village to support parents postpartum. Having help with day-to-day tasks such as grocery shopping, meal preparation and spending time with baby so you have time for a nap in the weeks immediately after childbirth can be a lifesaver. And as you get farther out, having people who can offer their ear or a shoulder to cry on can make all the difference. 


  • Move your body. Exercising postpartum can improve mood, restore muscle strength, help recovery after childbirth, and much more. Be gentle, especially in the beginning, and slowly increase your exercise over time. Listen to your body and make sure to not overdo it and cause injury! Walking is an excellent option at all phases of recovery.


  • Take time to journal. Setting intentions and reflecting through a regular journaling practice can be very therapeutic. Journaling consistently can strengthen your sense of self-awareness, wellbeing, mental clarity, and can be a source of strength especially when things feel more challenging.  


  • Give your body grace and time. Giving birth is one of the most intense and nutrient depleting experiences a woman will ever go through. Make sure to give yourself time (beyond just the 6 weeks) to heal and to let yourself get back into a new rhythm and routine. 

Postpartum is a time for healing, bonding, and nurturing. It is one of the most sacred times in your life, so be sure you have what and who you need to thrive! And don’t forget that a well-balanced prenatal supplement can help bridge gaps that may exist in your diet to support your healing.

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Lisa Dreher

Lisa Dreher

Lisa is a registered dietitian/nutritionist with a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Integrative Health. She has been practicing for over a decade and works full time at Dr. Mark Hyman's UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts.

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