Ok, It probably should be 4th Trimester feti or across the pond, foeti. Yes, some of this info is from a diary I published a couple years back, but with all the anti-abortion legislation I needed to vent.
There is a theory that babies are born not because they're ready to live outside the womb, but because there's no more room inside the mom. If you look at babies born to other species, such as foals, lambs and fawns, you realize there is some truth to the theory. Many baby animals can walk within hours after their birth. Human infants take a year to learn to walk. Some versions of theory say babies are born three months too soon. Another went so far as to suggest 6 trimesters of fetal development; three in the womb and 3 outside it.
Also, the three months right after birth are sort of like a fourth trimester for the mother, since her body goes through a lot to get back to 'normal'.
Since human infants are so immature, they require a lot of time, care and resources. First of all, babies and particularly newborns have trouble regulating their body temperature. The infant homo sapiens is extremely susceptible to both overheating and cold weather. This means that new moms need money not only for rent, but also for heat in the winter and electricity to run the AC in the summer. In some apartment buildings heat is included in the rent, but air conditioning is provided by an electric window unit and the electric bills are the tenants' responsibility. Strangely enough, many of the same legislators pushing these anti-abortion bills vote against welfare, Section 8, LIHEAP and raising the minimum wage.
In order to grow as much as they do, babies need to eat all the time. In her book Our Babies, Ourselves anthropologist Meredith Small discusses the superiority of breast milk over formula and includes this stunning fact:
Even in Western Europe and North America, where sanitation is better than in other parts of the world, bottle-fed infants exhibit two to five times the number of respiratory infections that breast-fed infants do.Despite all the accumulating evidence and the recommendations of the World Health Organization that babies be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months, the WHO reports that only 1 in 3 infants are.
In the US, many women who start breast feeding give up well before the child is 6 months old. The Family and Medical Leave Act requires only UNPAID maternity leave and doesn't cover part time workers. Many low income women work for large employers such as Walmart and McDonald's that often schedule employees for 30 some hours a week, just less than full time. And even if a single mom were to qualify for FMLA leave, it is unlikely she could afford to take 12 weeks off with no income and still make rent. A quick scan of Wikipedia shows that most countries around the world require some form of paid maternity or parental leave, but not the United States. Again, a large number of the anti-abortion legislators have poor voting records on labor issues.
A lot of noise has been made about abortion, but we could do a lot more to help babies after birth and the issues I named are only the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to looking after mothers and their newborns, we have a long way to go.