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Your second pregnancy is often different than your first. You might show sooner, feel more tired, have stronger or more frequent back pains, and you may notice Braxton Hicks contractions earlier. Labor will likely be faster, but postpartum recovery could take longer. The good news is, in spite of all the possible variables, because you have been through this before, you can anticipate and even prevent some symptoms. And if your first labor experience was disappointing you can try a different birth plan this time.
So, you're pregnant with your second child! Congratulations!! Now that you've already been through pregnancy, you have some idea what to expect. But you're probably also wondering what might be different this time around.
8 ways your second pregnancy might be different from your first
Every pregnancy is unique – both from woman to woman and for the same woman – so it's difficult to predict what any particular one will be like. But here are eight common ways your second (or third or fourth) pregnancy might be different from your first.
1. Your second pregnancy bump may show earlier
Your baby isn't growing any faster, but you may very well find that your pregnant belly pooches out a bit sooner than it did the first time. This is because your ab muscles, which were tighter the first time around, were naturally loosened by the first go-round, so they don't hold the pregnancy in quite as efficiently.
For the same reason, you may carry your baby a little lower this time.
TIP: Be prepared to switch to elastic waistbands or start wearing maternity clothes earlier.
2. You might feel more tired
Many women say they feel more fatigued in subsequent pregnancies than during their first. It's no surprise, really, because with a child or multiple kids in the house, you have even less time to nap or just plain rest than you did the first time around. And you may be getting less pampering from your partner (who might be thinking pregnancy is old hat for you by now).
- Rest. Think about what you can do to cut back on unnecessary activities and carve out some rest time.
- Enlist your partner. Keep your partner involved and remind him or her that you may need some extra help.
- Ask for additional support. Don't hesitate to call on other family members and friends if you need a hand.
- Eat well. Make sure you're getting all the nutrients you need, and stock up on energy-boosting foods for meals and snacks.
3. Back pain could be a problem
Back pain tends to be more common with each subsequent pregnancy, particularly if you experienced back pain with your first (or previous) pregnancy. If you didn't get your abdominal muscles back in shape after your last delivery, your risk of back pain now is higher.
And if you have a baby or toddler, you're also doing more running around, lifting, and bending, which can put your back at risk.
- Strengthening your abs may prevent or lessen low back pain as your pregnancy progresses. Find time to exercise whenever you can.
- Always bend your knees and lift from a crouching position to minimize stress on your back. Don't lift anything heavier than 20 pounds.
- Consider a maternity support garment that will provide comfort and compression to your abdominal muscles.
4. You might feel kicks and Braxton Hicks contractions earlier
It's common for veteran moms to feel kicks a few weeks earlier than they did during their first pregnancy, possibly because they're familiar with the sensation. You may also notice Braxton Hicks contractions a bit earlier the second time around, for the same reason.
5. You can anticipate – and help prevent – some symptoms
Every pregnancy is different, but you'll likely have at least some of the discomforts you had in your prior pregnancy. You can use this knowledge to try to lessen and possibly prevent some of these uncomfortable symptoms.
- If you suffered from constipation or hemorrhoids last time, try preventive measures early on, such as eating plenty of fiber or taking a fiber supplement, drinking plenty of water, and exercising regularly.
- To help prevent urinary incontinence, do daily Kegels.
- If you got stretch marks the last time you were pregnant, you'll probably get some new ones with this pregnancy. And unfortunately, the chances of getting them increase as you age. Although there isn't much you can do to avoid them, being careful not to gain an excessive amount of weight may help. Use our pregnancy weight gain tracker to find your target weight range.
- If you suffered from varicose veins during your last pregnancy, consider wearing special support hose starting early on this time around, and elevate your feet and legs whenever possible. Daily exercise, such as a brisk walk, is also helpful to improve your circulation.
- If you had nausea during your last pregnancy, stock up on healthy snacks so you can eat when you first wake up (even better, while you're still in bed) and often throughout the day. Learn which foods to eat when you have morning sickness.
6. Your mindset may have changed
While you may have just as many ups and downs as you had before, the things that excite and worry you are likely to change somewhat.
At times, you may be overjoyed at the thought of having another baby. Other times, you may begin wondering what you've gotten yourself into. Along with the inevitable worrying that the new baby will be healthy, you may be wondering about being able to handle the demands of having two kids and how the cost of adding another child to your household will affect your family's future finances.
It's also common to have concerns about how your relationship with your partner and your other children will be affected, such as whether you'll still be able to give them the attention they need.
TIP: Talk with moms who have more than one child. Chances are good they had some of the same feelings and their perspectives (now that they're on the other side) might be very helpful. Consider joining a local mothers' group for support or an online community of moms where you can ask for opinions, reassurance, and suggestions.
7. Labor is often faster, and may happen sooner
It's not a sure thing, but labor is likely to be shorter this time around. While first-time moms usually spend somewhere between five and 12 hours in active labor, it generally progresses much more quickly for women who've been through it before, lasting on average between 2 and 7 hours.
You might also go into labor a little sooner than the first time. Research shows women who've been pregnant before are more likely than first-timers to give birth by 40 1/2 weeks of pregnancy.
And the pushing stage of labor is often easier. First-timers laboring without an epidural tend to push for about an hour. The average is closer to 30 minutes if you've had a previous vaginal delivery.
You're also less likely to end up with stitches than a first-time mom.
8. Postpartum recovery can take longer
You'll probably have more intense afterbirth pains. These cramps are caused by contractions of your uterus as it shrinks back to its pre-pregnancy size and location after you have your baby.
Afterpains are typically mild and short-lived for first-time moms (if they're felt at all), but they can be quite uncomfortable after a second delivery and usually get worse with each successive pregnancy. That's because first-time mothers have better uterine muscle tone, so the uterus tends to contract and stay contracted rather than intermittently relaxing and then contracting again.
Don't be surprised if it takes longer to regain your shape this time.
TIP: As with your first pregnancy, postpartum weight loss alone won't be enough to get back your pre-pregnancy shape. You'll need to exercise to regain good muscle tone.
To deal with afterbirth pains, keep your bladder empty and try gently massaging your lower belly. Some moms find a heating pad helpful. Take ibuprofen – or ask your doctor for something stronger if you need it.
What about second pregnancy complications?
If you're healthy and had no problems in your previous pregnancy, your risk for complications now is low. It's true that there is increased risk for certain complications, such as placental abruption and postpartum hemorrhage (PPH), for ensuing pregnancies, but these are mainly concerns for women who have many babies.
If you've previously had a pregnancy complication – such as preterm labor and birth, preeclampsia, a placental abruption, or postpartum hemorrhage – you do have a higher risk of having that complication with your second pregnancy. You're also at higher risk of certain complications this time around if you've developed a chronic medical condition such as high blood pressure, obesity, or diabetes since your last pregnancy.
On the other hand, if you haven't had preeclampsia before (and haven't developed hypertension since your last pregnancy), your chances of developing it during this pregnancy are much lower than the first time around.
TIP: Make sure your practitioner is aware of any pregnancy or postpartum complications you've had, any problems your babies have had, or any medical problems you've developed. That way she can determine the best way to manage your pregnancy.
Will I have the same schedule of prenatal visits and tests?
If you had no complications during your last pregnancy and haven't developed any medical conditions in the meantime, you can expect pretty much the same routine in terms of prenatal visits and tests. (If you've had problems in a previous pregnancy, you may need more of both.)
You may find you have different screening options for Down syndrome. Depending on your age, how long it's been since your last pregnancy, and other genetic risk factors, you may be a candidate for noninvasive prenatal testing. While less accurate than amniocentesis and CVS, these screenings involve a test of your blood for certain fragments of DNA. (Options for invasive diagnostic testing, including CVS and amniocentesis, remain the same.)
Many of the blood tests you may have had during your first pregnancy will need to be repeated, but not all of them. For example, if you or your baby's father were previously screened for genetic disorders (such as sickle cell trait, cystic fibrosis, or Tay-Sachs), those tests will not need to be repeated because the results would be the same.
When should I tell my other child that I'm pregnant?
It's a personal decision, of course. When you tell depends partly on how old your child is and how you think she or he will handle the news.
TIP: Consider waiting until the pregnancy is well established – that is, sometime after your first trimester, when the risk of miscarriage declines significantly.
Do I have to stop breastfeeding now that I'm pregnant again?
You may continue to nurse during pregnancy if you choose to. Studies have shown that breastfeeding during pregnancy won't affect the birthweight of your new baby or increase the risk of preterm birth or miscarriage.
Still, talk with your doctor if you have had a preterm delivery or miscarriage. You can probably still breastfeed, but you'll want to be aware of any contractions that result from nipple stimulation when you nurse. Or you may decide to wean during your pregnancy if your breasts are very tender or you're just too exhausted or not interested in tandem nursing after giving birth.
Finally, your toddler may make the decision for you: Your milk supply lessens and the taste changes during pregnancy. One small study found about a quarter of breast-fed children self-weaned when their moms became pregnant.
Do I need to take childbirth classes again?
It's really up to you. If you gave birth relatively recently and nothing is substantially different this time around, you may choose to forgo classes. On the other hand, if your last birth was a long time ago, you may want a refresher. Or, depending on how you felt about your first labor, you may want to try a different birthing method. Taking childbirth classes will also introduce you to other expectant parents.
Here are some other options you might find helpful:
- Review classes. While getting back to basics is often helpful, some instructors offer shorter "refresher" classes for those who don't want to sit through an entire course again.
- At-home courses. You could buy, rent, or stream a childbirth education DVD that you can view from your couch. Check out BabyCenter's online childbirth class videos.
- Sibling classes. Later in pregnancy, you might want to sign up your older child for a "sibling class." Many hospitals now offer introductory programs designed for new sisters- and brothers-to-be. They'll show your child a room like the one you'll be staying in; discuss any ideas, questions, and concerns about the new arrival; and visit the nursery so everyone can see what a newborn looks like. Most programs last about an hour.
How can I have a better second pregnancy experience and delivery if I was disappointed last time?
If you had a disappointing experience last time, here are some ideas to think about:
- Switch from an OB to a midwife, or vice versa. (If you switch practitioners, make sure your new one gets a copy of your records and knows your history.)
- Consider having a birth doula.
- Consider whether you would prefer delivering in a birth center instead of a hospital, or vice versa.
- If you had a c-section before, are you interested in attempting a vaginal birth this time? You'll need a practitioner who's willing and has privileges in a hospital that allows the option of a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC).
- Develop a detailed birth plan to share with your healthcare providers.
How can I make sure my other child is taken care of when I go into labor?
You'll need to plan ahead to make sure someone is available to take care of your child when you go into labor.
The waiting game of early labor can be quite stressful when you have other children to care for, particularly if you have to wait for a sitter to arrive before you can head to the hospital. And labor tends to go more quickly (sometimes a lot more quickly) than in a first pregnancy.
When in doubt, call the babysitter – there's no harm done even if you don't end up needing to go in, and you may be able to rest more easily knowing that help is at hand. If the sitter can't get there right away and your labor appears to be progressing rapidly, head to the hospital with your child and have the sitter meet you there.
Or perhaps you would like the option of having your other child at the birth? If so, find out ahead of time if your practitioner will support your decision and whether the hospital will allow it, if that's where you're planning to deliver.
TIP: Talk to your child or children about what's going to happen and who will be with them, and acknowledge any fears they have about being separated from you. Be sure they have the support they need during this time.
Is it easier to predict when I'll go into labor the second time?
Not really. Experts still don't fully understand what triggers the onset of labor, and just like with your last pregnancy, there's no way to predict exactly when it will start. But research shows that a surge of hormones from the baby signals to the mother that he is ready to be born and the mom's body responds by preparing for labor, so because you've done this before, you may be more attuned to signs that it will happen soon.
Additionally, you won't feel it, but your cervix may begin to dilate a bit more this time in the weeks before labor. On the other hand, it's unlikely that your baby will "drop" until you go into labor.
You may notice more frequent Braxton Hicks contractions as you near your due date than you did in your previous pregnancy – and false labor contractions can be even more disconcerting because, in addition to everything else, you might be constantly wondering if it's time to call the babysitter.
It's still not a sure thing, but once you pass your mucus plug or have some "bloody show," labor may be imminent. Likewise, if your water breaks before the onset of regular contractions, chances are that you will soon experience regular and more intense contractions.
Can I get my tubes tied while I'm in the hospital?
If you've decided you don't want to have any more children after this pregnancy and you opt for tubal ligation, you may have the surgery while you're in the hospital for your delivery.
Be sure to discuss this ahead of time during one of your prenatal visits. If you have federally funded health insurance, a consent form must be signed and dated 30 to 180 days before the sterilization. (Some states waive the period to 72 hours.) You can still change your mind later if you decide not to have the procedure.
Are you ready for another one?