What to expect during your second pregnancy - Ruth Health

What to expect during your second pregnancy

Fast facts:

  • From the timing of your baby bump to your experience of postpartum recovery, pregnancy often feels different the second time around, both physically and emotionally.
  • You will need the same basic screenings as last time. Make sure your provider has the full details from your first pregnancy and any additional information on your or your baby’s health.
  • Labor can be shorter during a second vaginal birth for many individuals.
  • Don’t be afraid to revise your birth plan, whether taking a different pain management approach or trying new labor positions.
  • Caring for a newborn while prioritizing time with your other child and your partner can be emotionally demanding. Ask for support and be sure to take time for yourself.

Each pregnancy and birthing experience is unique, both physically and emotionally. A second pregnancy often differs from the first in at least a few ways.

You won’t know exactly how your second pregnancy feels until you’ve experienced it, but it always helps to anticipate common challenges and prepare as much as you can.

From the timing of your baby bump to postpartum recovery, here’s what to expect the second (or third, fourth, etc.) time around.

Early pregnancy: the physical

You might start showing earlier since your abdominal muscles and uterus are already accustomed to stretching. For the same reason, some birthing people carry the baby lower during their second pregnancy.

There’s also a chance you’ll feel fetal movement earlier, in part because you’re likely more attuned to the physical sensations of pregnancy, including those little kicks.

For some women, breast soreness and sensitivity is more manageable with baby number two, but each person’s experience is different.

On the other hand, back pain may feel more intense, depending on how your muscles and center of gravity shifted during your first pregnancy. Pelvic pain is also more common with repeat pregnancies.

You will need the same basic screenings as last time, and prenatal appointments typically have the same frequency.

If you had any complications with your previous pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, your healthcare provider may recommend more frequent or earlier monitoring.

Top tips:

  • Alleviate back pain with physical therapy and fitness during pregnancy. Exercises that strengthen the core, back, and hips are often beneficial. A pelvic floor specialist can recommend the best exercises for your needs.
  • While this pregnancy may have a few surprises in store, draw upon what you learned the first time to lessen discomforts. Wear those compression socks earlier if needed, and stock up on your go-to relief for breast soreness.
  • If working with a different OB/GYN or birthing professional, make sure they are aware of your previous pregnancy and postpartum experiences. If seeing the same provider, share relevant information about your or your child’s health since their birth.

Early pregnancy: the emotional

Second pregnancy fatigue is real. You may not feel like you can give this pregnancy as much attention as your first, which is understandable: it’s a lot different to grow a baby while caring for one or more children.

Try to be gentle with yourself. The amount of mental energy you spend preparing for your second child’s arrival in comparison to your firstborn is not a reflection of your love for them.

It’s also understandable to have anxiety about navigating daily life with two or more children, or concerns about how your relationship with your other child may change. Preparing your child for their younger sibling’s arrival often makes for an easier transition. 

Other parents of multiple children can be a wonderful resource. Don’t hesitate to ask friends what worked for them.

Top tips:

  • Prioritize your own needs when you can. Look for small opportunities to rest and reset.
  • Connect with other parents of multiple children. Beyond your personal network, explore parenting support groups (online or in person) and resources on social media.
  • How you tell your older child about your pregnancy is entirely up to you. However, it is typically recommended to wait until at least 12 weeks, when the risk of pregnancy loss is lower.

Labor and delivery

Labor can be shorter during a second vaginal birth. Since your cervix becomes more flexible during childbirth, cervical dilation and effacement may happen more quickly. Pushing during the second stage of labor may also take less time.

There is the potential for more frequent or more severe Braxton-Hicks contractions as you approach labor.

If you previously delivered by c section and are interested in a trial of labor for a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) or a home birth after cesarean (HBAC), discuss your options for both vaginal and c section delivery with your OB/GYN early in your pregnancy.

Preparation is as important as before, but how you prepare may be different. Some parents take childbirth classes as they approach their second labor and delivery.

Others feel equipped with enough information from their first birthing experience. Another option is a childbirth review class, which offers a quick refresh rather than a deep dive. All approaches are valid.

Top tips:

  • Your first labor experience may not be indicative of your second, and it’s okay to approach it differently. For example, you may feel more comfortable with a different pain management approach or varied labor positions. Document your preferences for labor and delivery in a birth plan.
  • Include childcare plans in your birth plan, and think about how you want your other child to meet their new sibling.
  • Consider working with a doula, especially if you had a difficult or traumatic birthing experience before. Doula-assisted individuals are likely to experience better health outcomes, with a lower risk for mental health disorders.

Postpartum recovery

There’s a wide spectrum of postpartum experiences. For some, the second time around feels somewhat like familiar territory. For others, different challenges arise.

Some women feel more intense afterpains as the uterus shrinks back to its pre pregnancy size. (Warm packs, ice packs, and over-the-counter medications can help!)

Though social media makes it look easy to bounce back after pregnancy, that isn’t the reality for many individuals. It can be an even more gradual process with baby number two, since you likely have more on your plate.

There’s no rush, so try not to put added pressure on yourself. This is a time to slow down and take good care of your mind and body.

Breastfeeding

The breastfeeding journey is a unique bond between parent and child. It will inevitably feel at least a little different after each birth if you breastfeed more than once. For many individuals, that’s part of what makes it so rewarding.

If this is your second breastfeeding experience, the learning curve might be shorter. Still — and while we wish it were otherwise — no baby enters this world knowing how to perfectly latch.

Expect some trial and error at the start. You may already have a handle on your preferred breastfeeding positions, but each baby has preferences of their own.

If you encounter a new breastfeeding challenge with your second baby, support from a lactation consultant is invaluable.

Caring for a newborn while prioritizing time with your other child and your partner can be emotionally demanding, on top of your physical recovery. This is a big adjustment for the whole family.

There’s bound to be a learning curve here too as you enter this new chapter. Some days may be easier than others, and asking for support is key.

Top tips:

  • Look for opportunities to incorporate movement into the day, like strolls with your baby or five minutes of breathing exercises while your newborn naps. Small windows still make a difference.
  • Work with a lactation consultant who can support you through any breastfeeding challenges that arise, familiar or unfamiliar.
  • It may be challenging to fit “me time” into your already-busy calendar, but it’s just as important as caring for your little ones. Whether leaving the house for a few minutes every day or leaning on others to get a few more hours of sleep, make a point to take time for yourself.

We’re here to support your pregnancy journey

Ruth Health is here to provide you with evidence-based information and support about all things pregnancy and postpartum, so that you can make the best decisions for yourself. 

Visit our resource hub for more on pregnancy, postpartum, and everything in between — and be sure to join our community by signing up below!

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