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How to recover after giving birth

The process of pregnancy and labor can put your body through some significant changes and stress. Because it takes time and energy to recover, it can be a good idea to eat nourishing foods that support your needs. It’s also important to try to get plenty of sleep—which may be easier said than done.

Recovery and postpartum exercise

Whether it takes 2 or 12 months for you to start feeling more back to normal, it’s important to follow your doctor’s advice when getting active again. Some women are cleared to start physical activity days after birth, if there are no medical or surgical complications, while for others it will take longer.  
When you can, it’s recommended that healthy women aim to get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise after having a baby.1 In general, you’ll want to start with simple exercises and gradually increase your activity.  
Pregnancy stretches the abdominal muscles, shortens back muscles, and weakens the pelvic floor, so focusing on core and pelvic floor exercises like Kegels can help regain strength and function.1 However, talk to your doctor before starting crunches or other exercises that flex, extend, or rotate the spine too much, especially if you had a caesarean. 

Help with breastfeeding

Breastfeeding may come naturally to some new moms and babies, but it can be challenging for others. Fortunately, many health insurance plans provide lactation counseling as a benefit.2 Many hospitals will have a lactation consultant available while you’re recovering from your birth before going home, so be sure to take full advantage of that if you can. Remember that breastfeeding can take practice, so don’t hesitate to ask for help. 
For the answers to many questions and concerns about breastfeeding, review the breastfeeding section on the website for the Office on Women’s Health at the US Department of Health and Human Services. You’ll find tips and tricks as well as links to other resources. 

Postpartum depression: What to look for

Talk to your doctor if you notice any of these potential symptoms of postpartum depression:3 
  • Feelings of sadness or despair, or feeling overwhelmed 
  • Crying for no reason 
  • Anxiety and worry 
  • Experiencing mood swings and irritability 
  • Sleeping too much or being unable to sleep 
  • Difficulty with concentration and focus 
  • Sudden bouts of anger 
  • Physical aches and pains or headaches 
  • Overeating or feeling no appetite 
  • Experiencing trouble bonding with your baby 
  • Feeling doubt about your mothering or parenting skills 
  • Thinking about hurting yourself or your baby 
There are a wide range of symptoms when it comes to postpartum depression. Read more: “Postpartum Depression” from the Office on Women’s Health in the US Department of Health and Human Services. 

Researching complications and diagnoses

There’s no substitute for talking to a doctor, but you can start to research and learn all you can about a complication or diagnosis during pregnancy or after your baby is born. In addition, there may be social media groups specific to the issue that could help you connect with families with similar experiences. 
To aid with your research, here are some health-related resources: 
  • PubMed Central is an archive of papers at the US National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine. 
  • Medline is produced by the National Library of Medicine and offers patients and families up-to-date health information. 

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NYT: Parenting

Helpful parenting resources from the New York Times.
1. Mayo Clinic Staff, “Exercise After Pregnancy: How to Get Started,” Mayo Clinic, November 24, 2021, 2. “Women’s Preventive Services Guidelines: Affordable Care Act Expands Prevention Coverage for Women's Health and Well-Being,” Health Resources & Services Administration, December 2022, 3. “Postpartum Depression,” Mayo Clinc, November 24, 2022,

This information is general in nature and provided for educational purposes only.