The fourth trimester: time for moms to focus on themselves

Moms spend nine months making sure they're healthy as their baby develops, but what about after delivery? A new survey shows the need for moms to put a little more focus on themselves.

The so-called fourth trimester is a critical time after delivery and can come with serious health concerns. Many new moms overlook their own health after the baby is born. 

After having her first child, Rachael Kobb says she felt unprepared for how difficult  those first few months could be. 

"Just thinking about how people have been doing this forever, and it's this shared experience that everyone has, yet I felt so lonely and don't know how to ask for help," she admits.

"The fourth trimester is overwhelming, and I don't think anyone can be fully prepared for it because you don't know until you actually experience it," says Dr. Megan Gray, with Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies.

After childbirth, women can go through debilitating physical and emotional challenges, yet are often too focused on taking care of their baby to worry about taking care of themselves.

"It's very important for new moms to follow up with their midwives or their physicians, ideally sooner rather than later," Dr. Gray says. 

But too many moms aren't seeking the care they need.

A new national survey by Orlando Health finds more than a quarter of women did not have a plan in place for their own health management in the weeks following delivery, while over 40 percent said they felt overwhelmed or depressed.

"It was very challenging admitting that because you immediately feel like, 'I'm a bad mom because I feel this way,' and you're not," Kobb says.

Experts say seeing your doctor is critical to identifying conditions from abnormal bleeding to postpartum anxiety. 

"A lot of it is just reassurance, but some of it, it needs to be treated," Dr. Gray says. 

And as impossible as it may seem, experts say sometimes the best and most overlooked treatment is simply giving yourself a break.  

"Don't corner yourself into all these positions where you have to feel perfect. There's no perfect mom out there. If you're taking good care of your baby, then you are a great mom," Dr. Gray says. 

"It's identifying that you need help or you need a break, and that you should do that without feeling guilty about doing it," Kobb adds.