A first pregnancy is marked by a sharp learning curve for parents, and concerns about the baby’s health and mom’s changing body. But despite everything learned along the way, a second pregnancy can bring very different experiences.
“The way you feel, carry the baby, experience labor and delivery, and react during a second, third or fourth pregnancy is likely to vary from your first pregnancy and childbirth,” says Dr. Pourang "Ray" Kamali, an obstetrician/gynecologist affiliated with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center.
“While it’s nice to feel experienced and avoid the fears and concerns you felt the first time around, subsequent pregnancies still come with their own distinctive challenges and differences.”
According to Dr. Kamali, the following are some of the ways later pregnancies may differ from a first:
You may look and feel more pregnant than before.
Your stomach will grow bigger and faster because the uterus doesn’t completely shrink to its original size after a first pregnancy. You may feel differently because the loss of muscle tone and stretching of the ligaments that support the uterus can cause back pain and pelvic discomfort.
Your baby sits differently.
With that diminished muscle tone, your body can't support a baby as well as it did before, so the fetus drops lower in your abdomen. The upside to carrying a child lower is that you can typically breathe easier and eat more comfortably, but your bathroom breaks tend to be more frequent and pelvic pain is increased, although Kegel exercises — an exercise to strengthen pelvic floor muscles — can help.
Your baby moves differently.
Although your second baby may move much like the first, you may feel movement earlier and more intensely because you expect them; first-time moms sometimes mistake their baby’s early feeble kicks for issues like intestinal gas.
Labor and delivery are typically shorter.
Perhaps the best news about second pregnancies is that labor and delivery times are typically shorter. Your body has gone through the birthing process already, so the cervix has lost some of its rigidity, making it easier for dilation to occur. Of course, it’s impossible to know when exactly a baby will arrive, but the chances are good that a first pregnancy will help speed a second along.
When to start planning for the next one
“Once the joys and experiences of childbirth are celebrated, I always remind my patients that family planning is an important consideration after any number of pregnancies,” says Dr. Kamali.
While many women continue growing their families after a first or second birth, others will choose to postpone having more children or stop altogether.
Regardless of her choice, a woman should know that there are many birth control options for all preferences, from over-the-counter products to prescription contraceptives, to safe and permanent sterilization procedures.