How does a second pregnancy differ from the first?

You are likely to find that your second pregnancy has differences to the first time you were pregnant.

Discovering you are pregnant again is exciting. However you may wonder what symptoms are different when you are pregnant with your second child.

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 able 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.’ Livia

‘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.’ Deirdre

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. In hindsight your first pregnancy is likely to 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.’ Mari

You may feel that you know everything about pregnancy but don’t let antenatal appointments slide. Even if your first pregnancy was uncomplicated, attending every appointment is just as important in this one as it allows your midwife to check on the well-being of your growing baby.

Other children are welcome at appointments and it can help them feel involved. Bring snacks and toys/books to keep them occupied in waiting rooms.

Your mental well-being 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 as much as you did with the 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 he comes 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 for folic acid and vitamin D. Think of a place to keep them that is out of reach of children but also obvious in your day to day routine. Near the kettle perhaps if you always have a hot drink in the morning.
  • Online shopping might help now and when your second baby is born if it's available. 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 leads to disturbed sleep . A good night sleep will make a difference to your energy levels and mental well-being.

'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.' Mari

Planning for early days with a newborn and an older child

Managing in the early days with a newborn and 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. They could, for example, pass around a shared online spreadsheet on which dates and meals can be entered.
  • If your child needs your presence to go to sleep, work with your partner on withdrawing from this process. If your partner is able to 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 consider 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.

‘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.’ Livia

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 it’s worth trying again.

Read more midwives' answers

Pregnancy news and blogs

Sources

  • WEIGEL R M (1989) Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy and Pregnancy Outcome: An Epidemiological Overview. Br J Obstet Gynaecol. 1989 Nov;96(11):1304-11.
  • Ingram J, Woolridge M, Greenwood R (2001) Breastfeeding: it is worth trying with the second baby. Lancet. 2001 Sep 22;358(9286):986-7 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11583756
  • NICE (2014) Intrapartum care for healthy women and babies. Clinical guideline [CG190 ]. National Institute of Health and Care Excellence, London, England.
  • Figueiro M, Bierman A, Plitnick B, Rea M (2009) Preliminary evidence that both blue and red light can induce alertness at night. BMC Neuroscience 2009;10(1):105.
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Last reviewed on September 4th, 2017. Next review date September 4th, 2020.

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