9 Things You Should Probably Know About Second Pregnancies
There are a number of things I was never told about second pregnancies. Of course, it's nearly impossible to expect a guide to cover first, second, third, or fourth pregnancies and all the various different details of each one.
It was when a few of my friends and I found ourselves in the midst of our second pregnancies that we learned first-hand of some interesting differences between the first and second pregnancy. You might not know about them. I wish I had when I was expecting my second baby.
Are Second Pregnancies Easier Than First?
Not necessarily, but there isn't much research into this question. Kathleen M. Rasmussen, a nutritionist with the Nancy Schlegel Meinig Professor of Maternal and Child Nutrition at Cornell University says that whether the second pregnancy goes smoother depends on a few things.
"It depends quite a bit on the amount of time that has passed between the first and second pregnancy and well as on the complications (if any) of the first pregnancy," she says. "The woman’s health at each conception also matters, and it may differ between the two."
10 Differences Between First and Subsequent Pregnancies
- More round ligament pain.
- More fatigue.
- Less nausea.
- Your belly will be bigger and you'll show sooner.
- Lower blood pressure.
- Earlier quickening.
- More Braxton Hicks contractions.
- Varicose veins.
- More urinary incontinence.
- Faster, easier delivery.
1. Round Ligament Pain Is More Intense During a Second Pregnancy
During your first pregnancy, you might not have noticed the constant ache and strain of round ligament pain. If you did, it was probably in the third trimester. This is because your muscles had never stretched in the way they need to for pregnancy, so they most likely did not bother you until the third trimester or even just near the end of your pregnancy.
It's different this time around, isn't it? Many women (myself included) found the ligament pain much harder to deal with during second pregnancies. You'll probably notice the pain will start out mild but noticeable at the end of the first trimester.
Some women experience relief from the pain during the second trimester, though it is very likely to return full force once your third trimester begins. It can get be painful enough to make walking very difficult. Worse, it can be hard to sleep.
This happens because the ligaments around your uterus have already been stretched before, which means that they have already stretched back as well. Once a ligament has been stretched and then retracts, it becomes stronger. When the ligaments are stretched again they hurt more than they did the first time.
Is It Dangerous?
No. While pelvic pain is more spread out and can come from many sources (bladder, bowel, or uterus), round ligament pain is localized to either side of the groin. It's not dangerous and will go away after delivery.
How to Relieve Round Ligament Pain
You may notice the pain becomes sharper when you sneeze, move suddenly, laugh, or roll over in bed. Here are some tips to relieve the pain:
- Ask your doctor if it's ok to take over-the-counter acetaminophen.
- Exercise to keep your stomach muscles strong.
- Avoid sudden movements.
- Bend and flex your pelvis before you cough, laugh, or sneeze (if possible!).
- Apply a heating pad or take a warm bath.
2. You'll Be More Tired But You Won't Get to Rest
Since you are a mother of one already, and probably work a job while taking care of the house, you will likely be more tired during your first trimester. And I don't mean a little bit fatigued. I mean, "I've got to go lie down and take a nap, now!" sleepy. Many women experience more painful ligament stretching (more about that later), which can make it hard to sleep at night. This makes it even harder to keep your eyes fully open during the day.
3. You May Have Less Nausea
Not everyone is so lucky, but for most women, nausea and morning sickness involved in a second pregnancy is not nearly as bad. Some doctors have suggested it's more psychological, since you might experience the same level of nausea, but are better able to handle it. Or you might just be to busy with your first child and work, to pay much attention to how nausea makes you feel.
Other medical experts feel that there is something more biological in the works, as many women often find themselves less affected by nausea and hormonal effects, with each subsequent pregnancy. Though no one has officially discovered the reason.
Having said that, some women who sailed through their first pregnancies with no morning sickness at all find themselves plagued by morning sickness the second time around. In general, however, women who have morning sickness the first time around will have it again to some degree during the second pregnancy.
Either way, many of you will be happy to know that morning sickness and nausea will probably be much less intense in your second pregnancy.
How to Relieve Nausea During a Second Pregnancy
Some degree of nausea during pregnancy is completely normal. Some researchers speculate that nausea is nature's way of keeping women from eating foods that might harm the baby.
That said, nausea makes life difficult and it saps your energy. Here are some tips to help you get through this (temporary!) stage:
- Rest and relax. Being overly tired can make nausea worse.
- Eat small amounts often. It may seem counter-intuitive, but if you let yourself get hungry your nausea will be much worse.
- Stay hydrated. Room-temperature water is easier on your stomach than very cold water.
- Eat what you like, even if it's just toast and crackers. Your baby will be fine!
- If cooking smells make you feel worse, try just eating cold foods.
- Exercise can help. Taking a walk in the fresh air can do wonders, but eat something before you head out.
If you are vomiting many times a day and can't hold food or liquid down, see your doctor. Extreme nausea can be treated but it's easier to address if it's brought to a doctor's attention early.
4. Your Bump Will Be Bigger and You'll Show Sooner
Your body has already stretched to carry a baby once. It knows what to do and it's more flexible, so the second time around your muscles, ligaments, and skin will accommodate the pregnancy with less resistance.
"Because the abdomen has been stretched once before, the woman may feel like she is bigger and 'carrying lower,'" says Marie-Andrée Harvey, a professor of obstetrics at Queens University in Ontario. "The baby is also often bigger and labor and delivery faster."
On top of this, you may be hungrier during this pregnancy. If you're chasing a toddler around and don't have time to rest, your body will need more energy, which means more food. So, your "baby bump" may be bigger this time and you may show earlier than you did the first time.
5. Earlier Quickening
That's right! You'll notice your little one fluttering around there, up to a month earlier than you noticed in your first pregnancy.
For the most part, the reason you'll see your quickening sooner is that you know what to look for and what it feels like. Whereas in your first pregnancy every little tummy bubble and rumble could have been a baby movement, this time you're familiar with what the little kicks and rolls feel like. Another reason you can feel these baby flips, kicks and bumps sooner is that your muscles will start to stretch out sooner, making it so you can feel more of what is going on in there.
6. You'll Feel More Braxton Hicks Contractions
Most women really don't notice pre-labor contractions in their first pregnancy, also known as Braxton Hicks or false labor contractions, at least not until the end of the third trimester. Some don't even notice it then.
During second pregnancies these contractions are often stronger. There are several plausible reasons for this. The most widely accepted reasons are that the mother knows what to expect from labor and anticipates it earlier, the mother's emotional level is higher due to dealing with the first child, and her round ligaments are already aching and sensitive.
The good news: These stronger "false labor" contractions will likely make your delivery faster and easier than your first.
7. Uncomfortable Varicose Veins
Some women get varicose veins in their legs during pregnancy, and the odds of this happening seem to increase with subsequent pregnancies. So if you didn't experience any vein swelling during your first pregnancy, you might during your second. The reason this happens is the increased blood volume that pregnancy triggers, plus the blood moves out of your legs more slowly.
If you find that you develop varicose veins (usually in the legs but sometimes in the labia), there are things you can do to reduce the throbbing feeling:
- drink lots of water
- avoid sitting in one position for very long
- don't cross your legs
- lie down with your legs elevated
- get in some light exercise
- reduce the salt in your diet
- wear compression stockings
8. Urinary Incontinence
While about a third of pregnant women experience urinary incontinence (when urine leaks out of the bladder) during a first pregnancy, about three-quarters of women have this problem during a subsequent pregnancy.
Why? The enlarged uterus puts pressure on the bladder. After this has happened once, the pelvic muscles might not fully recover so that during a second pregnancy the bladder isn't able to hold urine as effectively. Any sudden exertion, such as laughing, sneezing, or exercising can cause a leak.
Kegel exercises—performed by tightening up as if holding in urine—can strengthen the pelvic muscles and help prevent incontinence from happening.
9. Less Labor Time, Faster Birth
Although many women still find themselves in labor for at least 10 hours in the second pregnancy, that is still a lot shorter than the average 11 to 20 hours for a first pregnancy.
The reason for this is fairly simple. Remember those Braxton Hicks contractions that hit you stronger and sooner in your second pregnancy? Those pre-labor contractions have been getting your body ready to give birth, though at a more spread-out pace. When the baby is finally ready, he or she can pretty much just come right out.
The other reason for faster birth and less time in active labor is because your cervix and vaginal walls have already stretched from your first child, making it easier for them to stretch open again this time. As to why they aren't tougher like your abdominal muscles, an answer is yet to be found. Though it should help your anxiety level a bit, to know that you won't have to be in the hospital as long for active labor.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
© 2011 PermissionGiver