Your Second Pregnancy, Labor, and Delivery
Your Second Pregnancy
If you’re here, you already know that second pregnancies are totally different… in more ways than one. We asked 100,000 moms about their experiences and distilled it into the most important, common issues to know and think about as you move through your second pregnancy.
Be forewarned: as you learned from the first go ‘round, nothing goes as expected.
Your Body, Pregnant… Again
Because your abdominals have already been stretched out (congrats on that), you’ll probably look pregnant much sooner with baby number 2. As Alicia’s midwife described it to her, your uterus is like a balloon: pre-stretched and easier to blow up the second time.
Remember how tired you felt when you were pregnant with your first? Well, plan to feel precisely 157x more tired this time around, on account of chasing after your firstborn all the time. Whether you’re working full-time, at home, or anything in between, being pregnant on top of managing a child (or children!) is tough work — and the exhaustion quickly escalates.
Weathering pregnancy fatigue as a mom is a different game, so don’t hesitate to call in whatever reserves you have, whether it’s a partner, friend, sitter, family, or, yes, even the dreaded screen when you need to. On the upside, though, second pregnancies tend to fly by because you’re a lot busier and more preoccupied with your first kiddo.
And stressing about nursery decor for your 2nd? Ha! It might not even cross your mind until closer to the end. Some moms joke that the 2nd baby will sleep on a mattress on the floor: done!
Another difference: moms in their second pregnancies tend to feel the baby moving a lot sooner. During the first pregnancy, many women don’t feel the “quickening” until 18-22 (or more) weeks. With the second (or more) pregnancy, you’re more likely to feel fetal movement sooner, even as early as 13-16 weeks; this is partly because you’re better able to recognize the sensation. Similarly, you’re also more likely to feel and identify Braxton Hicks contractions earlier than with your first.
If you didn’t have any complications during your first pregnancy, it’s unlikely you’ll encounter them during your second.
Unfortunately, mothers who suffered complications the first time around, such as preterm labor or preeclampsia, are at risk for a repeat experience; on the bright side, you and your doctors will know what to look for and can treat your pregnancy accordingly. If you’ve moved or switched doctors, make sure your new physician knows your entire medical history so you can get the best possible prenatal care.
Statistically, are Second Babies Born Earlier?
The average first-time mom will give birth at 40 weeks and 5 days. The average delivery week for a second-time mom is roughly 40 weeks and 3 days—a whopping 2-day (average) difference. So yes, statistically, 2nd babies do come earlier by an average of 2 days (but 2 days nonetheless!).
I know, I know…. you’re 38 weeks right now and wondering if this baby could be coming soon!? The answer is: you just can’t know, but you will probably give birth around the same time or a few days before the time you had your first. (I know a week or two feels like an eternity right now… but patience pays off). Sorry. Hang in there.
Researchers think it’s likely that 2nd time moms respond to the labor hormones a little faster because it’s already gone through labor before, but no one really knows for sure. Remember also that many moms who ended up having c-sections the first time around will opt to proactively schedule a c-section the 2nd time as well, which may be why those dates are skewed earlier for second babies. See also: recovering from a c-section.
When it comes to labor and delivery of a second baby, there is lots of good news. Although it’s not a hard and fast rule, most second labors and deliveries are faster than the first (the average total labor time for a 2nd baby is about 6 hours the second time around, as compared to 12-18 hours for first labors). And, (drumroll….) perineal tearing is also much less common.
Second time moms, on average, spend waaaaaay fewer hours in labor, less time pushing, and suffer fewer tears. It’s not universally true, but since your body’s done this before and your muscles and birth canal have been stretched out, the process tends to move more smoothly and rapidly — even precipitously.
Which brings us to a major piece of advice about planning — since you could easily go from pregnant to mom-of-two in a matter of just a few hours, having logistical plans in place for your first child (your pet, etc.) is super important. If you have a planned induction or c-section, make sure to set up care for your child in advance (and hopefully that is relatively straightforward, schedule-wise). Orchestrating childcare on the fly is trickier since there’s no way to know when you’ll deliver — and this is especially true if you live far away from your family.
Coordinating travel plans for a mystery arrival date is obviously a little bit like gambling, which is why we also highly suggest having back-up plans in case the timing doesn’t line up as anticipated. Many of us with family coming from out of town relied on a short list of close friends, neighbors, and/or caretakers who could be “on call” for childcare in case labor began before our families arrived (or after they left).
Coordinating Help from Afar
For loved ones who plan on flying in to help with labor, delivery and child care, there are two approaches:
1. Base it on your first child’s birth. For loved ones looking to save money and buy a plane ticket in advance, the best bet is probably to plan on arriving a couple of days before your first child arrived. For example, if your first child was born a week early, relatives should plan on arriving a little over a week before your due date, with the caveat that they could end up waiting around for a while.
If their schedule allows them to do this (and you’re OK with them hanging around that entire length of time), it can be a huge relief to have help at the ready. There is always the possibility, though, that your second child comes much later than your first (Meg’s second baby was 2 weeks late!), in which case it can be a major bummer if your loved one has to return home and then travel back again after you deliver. To mitigate this — try to choose airlines with low change fees, such as Southwest (or every major airline during the pandemic… silver lining??), and delay the travel day until there is evidence that labor will be soon. You could also opt for an open-ended trip and simply purchase a one-way ticket. Sadly, there’s no perfect solution for this!
2. Play it by ear. The second strategy is to buy a ticket as soon as you sound the alarm. The caveat here is that family will pay more for airfare and might miss a bit of the show, but… they’ll be there when they’re truly needed (in the days following the birth). This also (obviously) demands more flexibility and doesn’t necessarily keep you covered in terms of immediate child care.
Yes, friends — second-time moms agree: having plans in place for your older child for when you go into labor, and (ideally) even back-up help for a few days afterward, is the most important component of your plan.
If you had a vaginal birth the first time around, you’re statistically likely to do so successfully again (96% likely, in fact). If you had a C-section for baby number one and are considering trying for a vaginal birth this time around, check out what the Mayo Clinic has to say about VBAC’s.
Something else to keep in mind is that an epidural takes a while for doctors to order and place. So if you are planning on seeking pain relief during labor, remember that there’s a chance your labor and delivery will be quicker (thus, you may want to inquire about that sooner rather than later).
Whatever your plans with regard to pain relief, you can take some comfort in the fact that, statistically at least, your chances of a smoother, faster labor and delivery look good. But we probably don’t need to remind you that this hardly means your second delivery experience won’t also be intense, crazy, amazing, and unique.
Bottom line: every birth story is different, and the only certainty about your second delivery is that it won’t be exactly like your first.
More good news, friends: second-time moms tend to experience much less pain after birth and recover much more quickly. Yeehaw! From the survey, this seemed to be the case for most.
That said, you’ve still got a lot of healing and recovering to do. Brush up on recovering from a vaginal birth or c-section. If you figured out breastfeeding the first time around, the second time will be a breeze. Moms also report much less anxiety than with their first.
The only thing that is worse for second-time moms is the afterpains (involution), so prepare for that. In fact, with each subsequent birth, the afterpains get worse.
Ok, everyone… the main event is here. For many of us, the anticipation of introducing our first child to a new baby sibling kept us ticking throughout pregnancy. First piece of advice? Get your camera ready, because you’ll want to remember this forever.
No matter how exciting and beautiful these first shared moments are, you will want to prepare for them. After all, our toddlers may be little, but they have big — wildly unpredictable — feelings, so they really do need us to guide them through this giant life change.
Children of all ages like to know what’s coming — so it’s in everyone’s best interest to let your older child know what’s in store (to the best of your ability). This is definitely a time when a surprise is not the best idea. The AAP offers useful suggestions on how to break the news, depending on your child’s age. Many moms feel differently about the timing — we think it’s best to do what feels right for you and your child, but know that there’s no rush (especially for toddlers and young children).
Think twice before you amp up the excitement too much — remember that this is a HUGE change, and overselling the moment could put a lot of pressure on your firstborn. When Alicia’s son met his little sister, her family tried to keep the moment calm, and the thing he remembered most about his visit at the hospital was the little red car she “brought him” as a present.
Speaking of which, yes: presents from baby can go a long way… seriously! Alicia says her son still talks about that car even years later! It made the day special for him, and it allowed her two kids to start their relationship on a sweet note.
Another thing that helps: showing your firstborn some dedicated love and affection. The idea during the very first visit is to keep everything as positive and cheerful as possible. And giving the majority of your attention to your first child at this stage in the game can be very reassuring. (By the way, don’t be shy about telling family and friends who visit to remember that kiddo #1 needs some extra attention, too.)
In fact, throughout the first few weeks, we recommend trying to carve out some special alone time with your firstborn, so he knows his relationship with you and your partner remains intact. If your partner has parental leave, have them take big sib on a fun little adventure, even if it’s just at the playground. Not only will it make him feel special, it will give you some invaluable time to rest and bond with the new baby.
One other thing: don’t be phased if your older child is scared or hesitant with the baby — let him warm up to her in his own time. Brit’s son was SO excited about “getting” a baby while she was pregnant but would hardly come within five feet of his new sister at the hospital because he was so flummoxed by her. If this happens, don’t worry, and don’t force it!
It might take a little while, but your kiddo will adjust. And you will too!
If stats offer some hope that your body might recover more swiftly, we know that taking care of a newborn in addition to an older child is a huge change (understatement of… life). So our last piece in the series, Managing Life With Two, will help make the adjustment a little easier for you.
Oh! And in case it’s been a while (or you’ve repressed it from the first time, hah!) we’ve got you covered if you need a general refresher on labor and delivery. See also: Gearing up the second time around.
Until then — be well, and congratulations!!
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I have had A LOT of anxiety with my second pregnancy. Between the Hyperemesis and migraines the anxiety had just been the cherry on top! Reading your blog has helped me. I appreciate you!
I have heard that if you have a cold c/s with your first (no labour) you will labour like a primip for your 2nd pregnancy. I have not been able to find anything written about that, is there truth to that? I had my c/s at 39 weeks for breech but my midwife and OB refused to do a vaginal exam to see what my cervix was doing. I thought that information might help me with my second.