Discovering you are pregnant again can be very exciting and you may wonder how different pregnancy will be the second time around. You’ll have more of an understanding of what to expect, although each pregnancy can be different.
Depending on their age, your first-born is likely to need round the clock attention and you might be worrying how pregnancy and a newborn will be fit into your already busy routine.
‘I have noticed a huge difference being pregnant second time around. With my first I downloaded a pregnancy app and kept it up-to-date daily, took regular bump pictures and baby-oiled my tummy from day one. Roll on the second time around and I just don't have the time (or energy) after running around my first born. However, because of this I do much take time out in the evenings like I did the first time around and sit and hold, stroke my tummy and talk to the baby.’
‘It’s a different ball game. With work and toddler there’s literally no time to indulge the pregnancy, and no time for my partner to indulge me either! Instead of making me tea, the new version of taking care of me is for him to take the toddler out on Saturday morning so I can make my own tea. And drink it in peace. (Decaf of course). In the past that would have meant nothing but now it’s actual bliss.’
Different symptoms in a second pregnancy
Second pregnancies can feel different from the first. You may find you have different symptoms after becoming pregnant with a second child. Women have told us that they have noticed the following differences:
The bump gets bigger sooner, probably because your stomach muscles have already been stretched out once before.
You may feel that you can feel the baby ‘kick’ or ‘move’ sooner. This could be just because you know what they feel like, so this time you’ll recognise a movement you might have dismissed in the first pregnancy.
You may have morning sickness for the second even if you didn’t have it for the first. If you had morning sickness for the first one you are more likely to have it again for the second.
You may have more Braxton Hicks.
You are likely to feel more tired. Looking back, your first pregnancy may seem like an era of relaxation compared to the exhaustion of minding a toddler while pregnant.
Labour and birth take less time. For first-time mums, the first stage of labour (cervix dilating), lasts an average of eight hours but for women who've had a baby before, the average labour is five hours. The second stage (pushing and birth) is likely to last under two hours, compared with three hours for first-time mums.
‘My second baby was a water birth, compared to an assisted birth with No 1. It didn’t take long at all and felt easier.’
You may feel that you know everything about pregnancy but don’t miss your antenatal appointments. Even if your first pregnancy was uncomplicated, attending every appointment is just as important in this one because your midwife needs to check on the wellbeing of your growing baby.
Other children are welcome at appointments, which can help them feel involved. It’s a good idea to bring snacks and toys/books to keep them occupied in waiting rooms. If you’re having an ultrasound scan, you could bring someone else with you to look after your child in the waiting room for the first few minutes, just so you can be confident that everything is OK before they come and join you.
Your mental wellbeing in a second pregnancy
Mentally, you are likely to be in a different place than you were with your first pregnancy. You’re unlikely to have the same amount of time to enjoy your pregnancy that you had with your first now that you have a child to look after. These are some tips for coping with pregnancy when you have a child to look after:
Rally friends and family to help out. Are there people you can trust to look after your child while you have some time to yourself?
If you are at home but have a partner who works regular 9-5 hours, hand your child over when they come back in the evening and take an hour for yourself. Leave the house if possible so you won’t be tempted to spend your hour tidying or dealing with household tasks. Go to a café with a book or tablet, visit a friend, walk in the park, go to the hairdresser or go for a swim.
If you work, take a day/half day or a few hours off every couple of weeks but leave your child in childcare or with friends. If your partner works, you could do it together.
You might find it harder to pay attention to the do’s and don’ts of pregnancy. Make it easier by setting an alarm to take your folic acid and vitamin D. Think of a place to keep them that is out of reach of children but also in your line of sight every day. For example, you could put them near the kettle if you always have a hot drink in the morning.
Online shopping might help. Most websites save your preferences so you can re-order items from a ‘usuals’ or ‘preferences’ list, saving time and mental energy.
Build exercise into your day if you can. Whether it is cycling to work or walking to the park with your child, building it in as a regular part of your day will make it one less thing to think about. Exercise is good for you and your unborn child.
Go to bed early. It’s easy to be tempted to stare at screens into the night, but there is research that it makes sleep harder. A good night sleep will make a difference to your energy levels and mental wellbeing.
'I gave up going to the supermarket completely when I had my first baby. I got a weekly shop delivered, and extra bits and pieces locally when I needed them.'
Planning for early days with a newborn and an older child
Managing in the early days with a newborn and an older child can be challenging, particularly if the older child is under three years old. There are some things you can do now to prepare:
Ask friends and family who are nearby to make meals for the days after the birth. If you would prefer not to ask them yourself, get a close friend to handle it for you.
If your child needs you to be near to go to sleep, work with your partner on withdrawing from this process. If your partner can put them to bed you will be free to focus on the newborn or sleep when the time comes.
If your child is in childcare, think about leaving them there part time at least for a few weeks after the birth, if you can afford it. It gives them continuity at a time of change and gives you space to concentrate on your newborn.
If you have family or friends who can take your first-born out for a few hours in the first few weeks after the birth, line them up to do so.
There are some useful books about a new baby coming to live with the family that you can read with any other children you have. These can be useful to look at and read together in the run up to having your baby.
‘Me and the toddler talk a lot about the baby and he’s helped to sort out baby clothes. I definitely 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.’
Breastfeeding a second time
Even if you did not breastfeed your first baby successfully, one study shows that milk comes in easier for your second baby than your first, so you may feel it’s worth trying again. Talk to your midwife about what you would like to do, so you can prepare as much as you can before the baby arrives.