Tommy's PregnancyHub

How does a second pregnancy differ from the first?

Your second pregnancy will probably be different to the first time you were pregnant.

You may have lots of different feelings about being pregnant again. This may have lots to do with what your first pregnancy was like. Any feelings you’re having are natural. Pregnancy can be a very emotional experience, so be kind to yourself.

You may be wondering what your symptoms will be like this time. Each pregnancy is unique, but you will have more of an idea of what to expect if you have been pregnant before.

If you have experienced baby loss before

If you have gone through baby loss, you may be feeling some complex emotions in this pregnancy. This is completely understandable. We have more information about pregnancy after miscarriage, pregnancy after neonatal loss, and pregnancy after a stillbirth or late term loss.  

We also have information about parenting after loss and you can find support from others in similar situations in our parenting after loss Facebook group.

Different symptoms in your second pregnancy

Symptoms during your second pregnancy can vary from your first. People have told us that they have noticed the following.  

Your bump gets bigger sooner, perhaps because your stomach muscles have been stretched out once before.

You may feel the baby kick or move sooner, perhaps as early as 16 weeks. This could be because you know what those movements are and what to expect. Contact your midwife or local maternity unit If you have never felt your baby move by 24 weeks, so they can check your baby’s heartbeat. Find out more about your baby's movements.

You may have pregnancy sickness in your second pregnancy even if you did not have it for your first. You are likely to have pregnancy sickness again if you have had it before, but that does not mean you will.

You may notice more Braxton Hicks.

You may feel more tired and feel like you have less time for self-care. 

Labour and birth are likely to take less time. In first-time labours, the first stage when your cervix dilates (meaning the lowest point of your womb opens) usually lasts between 8 and 12 hours. But if you have been through labour before, the average length of a second labour is 5 hours in total. The second stage (pushing and birth) is likely to last under 2 hours, compared with 3 hours for first labours.

"My second baby was a water birth, compared with an assisted birth with No 1. It didn’t take long at all and felt easier."  

Mari

You may feel that you know all about pregnancy, or that you now have less time for antenatal care. But this does not mean you should skip your appointments. If you cannot make one, be sure to rebook it. Your appointment schedule is designed just for you. Even if your first pregnancy was straightforward, seeing your midwife and having ultrasound scans is vital. You need your healthcare team to check on the wellbeing of your growing baby.

Any other children you have will be welcome at your appointments. It is a good way to involve them, especially if they get to see their tiny sibling during a scan. Just bring snacks and toys or books to keep your child happy while you are waiting to be seen. If you are having a scan, you could bring someone with you to look after your child in the waiting room for the first few minutes. Then you can be sure that all is OK before they come in and join you.

Your mental wellbeing in your second pregnancy

Mentally, you are likely to be in a different place than you were with your first pregnancy. Try our tips for improving your mental wellbeing in pregnancy.

Try to make some time for yourself. Friends and family may be able to help.  

You might find it harder to focus on your health with so much going on. Perhaps set an alarm to remind you to take your folic acid and vitamin D. Think of a place to keep your tablets, which is out of reach of any children, but in your line of sight every day. For example, on a shelf above your cereal.

Build movement into your day. It’s good for you and your unborn baby. Try to go for a short walk every day. If you have to drive somewhere, park a few streets away and walk the rest. Find out more about exercise in pregnancy.

Try to go to sleep earlier. It is tempting to settle down for screen time in the evenings, but too much near to bedtime can make sleep harder. A better night's sleep will boost your energy levels and mental wellbeing. Find out more about getting more sleep in pregnancy.

Streamline your food shop by making weekly meal plans. Order your favourites each time, if you go online. See our easy healthy dinner recipes.  

"I gave up going to the supermarket when I had my first baby. I got a weekly shop delivered, and extra bits and pieces locally when I needed them."

Mari

Depression in pregnancy

If you had depression during or after your first pregnancy it does not mean that it will happen again. But it’s a good idea to plan ahead with your doctor to manage depression this time around. Find out more about depression in pregnancy and postnatal depression.

After your baby is born

Your early days with a newborn and a child can be a challenge, particularly if your older child is under 3 years. But there are some things you can do now to prepare:

If friends and family have offered to help, ask them to make meals for the days straight after the birth. You could also ask willing family or friends if they can take your first-born out for a few hours in the weeks after the birth.

"Me and the toddler talk a lot about the baby and he’s helped to sort out baby clothes. I think early preparation is key. I've already asked my mother-in-law to have my son one day a week so I can use this day to bond and establish our feeding routine."

Livia 

If your child needs you to be near them to go to sleep, ease them towards a different bedtime routine ahead of the birth. If your child can get used to your partner or a family member putting them to bed, you will be free to focus on your newborn – or sleeping – when the time comes. Find out more about your baby's sleep.

If your child is in childcare, and you can afford it, think about keeping them there part-time for at least a few weeks after the birth. It keeps their routine the same, and gives you precious time to bond with your newborn.

Set aside time to read a book with your child about a new baby coming to live with you all. Stories like these are useful to look at and read in the run-up to having your baby. They get your child used to the concept of having a sibling and excited about the prospect.

Your health visitor can support you in helping your older child adapt to their new sibling, too.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. (2019) Your baby’s movements in pregnancy. Available at: https://www.rcog.org.uk/for-the-public/browse-all-patient-information-leaflets/your-babys-movements-in-pregnancy-patient-information-leaflet/ 

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. (2016) Pregnancy sickness (nausea and vomiting of pregnancy and hyperemesis gravidarum). https://www.rcog.org.uk/for-the-public/browse-all-patient-information-leaflets/pregnancy-sickness-nausea-and-vomiting-of-pregnancy-and-hyperemesis-gravidarum/ 

NHS. The stages of labour and birth. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/labour-and-birth/what-happens/the-stages-of-labour-and-birth/ (Page last reviewed: 2 May 2023 Next review due: 2 May 2026) 

NHS. Your antenatal appointments. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/your-pregnancy-care/your-antenatal-appointments/ (Page last reviewed: 21 April 2023 Next review due: 21 April 2026) 

NHS. Exercise in pregnancy. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/exercise/ Page last reviewed: 15 March 2023 Next review due: 15 March 2026)

NHS. Insomnia. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/insomnia/ (Page last reviewed: 19 February 2021 Next review due: 19 February 2024)

Review dates
Reviewed: 29 August 2023
Next review: 29 August 2026