Second-Pregnancy Differences

You may feel like a pregnancy pro, but carrying baby number two can be a surprisingly unique experience.

I was convinced that my second child would be a girl. I had morning sickness all day long -- compared to my first pregnancy with my son, when I experienced little more than a craving for pineapple. In low moments, I thought of all the adorable tiny dresses I might be able to buy. When we learned we'd be having another boy, I was shocked.

"Your second pregnancy may be completely different from your first," says Shelly Holmstrom, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, in Tampa, and a spokesperson for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. In my case, nausea was related to hormone levels that can vary between pregnancies. But that's not all that changes: If you're expecting number two, this is what you need to know.

    An Earlier Reveal

    I was just eight weeks into my second pregnancy when I could no longer button my pants. That's because once your abdominal muscles and skin expand during pregnancy, they're never quite as taut again. (Nothing ever is, is it?) "You'll look bigger sooner because your rectus abdominis muscle (what you think of as the 'six pack') has already been stretched out during your first pregnancy," says Dr. Holmstrom. So don't feel bad about having to break out all of your old maternity clothes sooner.

    Something else you'll notice earlier: your baby's kicks. Moms who've been there may feel the baby kick as early as 16 weeks, two weeks earlier than first-timers, because they're able to recognize it.

      Unpleasant Symptoms

      Your abdominal muscles can do more than just make it hard to hide your big news. Back pain -- which can develop as your center of gravity shifts to accommodate your growing belly -- can occur earlier the second time around. "If your abdominal muscles are a lot weaker in your second pregnancy, you may have back pain earlier," says Dr. Holmstrom. To prevent and ease back pain, wear low-heeled, but not flat, shoes with good arch support, and sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees for support.

      Unfortunately, if you experienced varicose veins or hemorrhoids in your first pregnancy, they may be more severe this time and will likely show up sooner too. "Since these veins were stressed in your first pregnancy, they're more vulnerable the second time," explains Dr. Holmstrom. The best way to prevent hemorrhoids is to avoid constipation: Drink plenty of water, eat a high-fiber diet rich in fruits and vegetables, avoid sitting or standing for long periods without a break, and don't delay when you need to use the bathroom. To ward off varicose veins, exercise regularly, avoid gaining too much weight, elevate your legs when possible, and don't cross your legs or ankles while sitting. You can also ask your doctor whether elastic support stockings (available at medical-supply stores) might help.

      Even More Fatigue

      Remember those lovely Saturday afternoon naps you took during your first pregnancy, after you and your partner made an energy-sapping trip to the movies? Now think about your toddler or preschooler's 6 a.m. need for breakfast or 3 a.m. visits to your bed. It's no wonder you're exhausted. "Give yourself more time to rest by delegating what you can to your partner or caregiver -- whether it's loading the dishwasher or grocery shopping," says Isabel Blumberg, M.D., an ob-gyn in private practice in New York City. "You'll have a lot less time once the baby comes, so try to shift these responsibilities now." Also, have someone else start giving your older child a bath or taking her to preschool so it's less of a transition for her when the baby arrives.

        Different Concerns

        "With my first pregnancy, I knew how pregnant I was down to the day," says Amy Morrison, a Toronto mom of two and the blogger behind Pregnant Chicken. "The second time, I just based it on how frequently people said, 'You're sure going to have your hands full!'". Even if you do keep tabs on exactly how far along you are, what you worry about will likely be different. "I didn't have as much time to focus on being pregnant the second time," says Tracy Vozar, of Chicago. "My husband and I were thinking more about all the changes that would happen after the new baby arrived." For example, you'll probably be thinking more about how to prepare your child to be a big sibling.

          A Speedier Labor and Delivery

          Thanks to your already stretched-out uterine muscles, you may experience more Braxton Hicks contractions leading up to delivery -- and your postbirth contractions (the ones that help stop bleeding and shrink your uterus back to its normal size) may last longer. That's because your "uterine muscle tone" decreases with each subsequent pregnancy. But here's the good news: You'll move through the stages of labor and delivery much more quickly. You can expect your delivery to be faster -- and labor may be speedier too, though it's hard to say exactly how much since it varies with every pregnancy. "Labor is almost always easier in second deliveries," says Dr. Blumberg. "It's too bad everyone can't deliver their second baby first!"

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              Originally published in the April 2015 issue of Parents magazine.

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