It’s a wonder more women don’t train for pregnancy like a marathon. For 40 weeks, your body goes through more challenges and changes than any other time in your life.

A healthy pregnancy, labor and birth require good nutrition, hydration, endurance, strength and perseverance. Those first few and last few weeks—or even months—can be downright miserable, making top pregnancy performance a mental game as well.

But quite unlike a marathon, you’re going to need far more than a good stretch and a sports drink to recover.

Focus on these action steps from our friends at the National Women’s Health Information Center and you should naturally be feeling more like your pre-pregnancy self by the time you have your 6-week postpartum check up!

Rest & Replenish

This is no time to accomplish projects. Right after birth you need physical, mental and emotional rest. You need time to get to know your baby and establish breastfeeding, says

  • Sleep when baby sleeps; you will feel more rested if you’re on the same sleep/wake cycle.
  • Relegate the housework to others; your body needs to recover.
  • Limit visits from your family and friends—this is important to protect baby’s health too. Have any visitors come by during baby’s awake time.

Reclaim Your Body

Skip the faddish diets and focus on good nutrition to return to your pre-pregnancy size, says the Mayo Clinic. Breastfeeding burns 500+ calories a day! That’s just one more reason to brag about this healthy best for you and baby.

  • Eat fresh produce, whole wheat grains and get healthy proteins like fish and dairy.
  • Skip simple sugars—they’ll actually make you feel even more tired than you do from sleepless nights.
  • Drink lots of water and limit caffeine, which can actually be dehydrating.

Gently Resume Activity

This is no time for Zumba! You’ll likely have a bloody discharge (Lochia) for weeks post-birth, as well as swelling in your arms and legs. You may still feel period-like cramping and have constipation. Be gentle with your body; it has made a miracle for you!

  • Follow your provider’s advice about resuming activity; gentle walking and other activities are often fine but best to check first.
  • Get outdoors when possible for fresh air and sunshine; this will naturally help you feel brighter and better; tell you provider if you’re experiencing “the blues”.
  • Give yourself 6 weeks of recovery before you resume more strenuous exercise—you’ve earned it!

The Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) promotes the health of women and newborns.

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