Feeling overwhelmed by your second pregnancy? Here's your cheat sheet to what you should do differently the second time around.
Once I had my first baby, I thought I had the whole pregnancy thing figured out—until I got pregnant again. I soon realized that number two is a whole new ball game, and of course, there's no rule book! But don't panic—the trick to making the second time a charm is to approach it differently. We spoke to experts and experienced moms to get the secrets behind making round two a breeze.
- Change your doctor.
First-time parents often spend more time choosing a stroller than their doctor, which can backfire. Finding someone you trust and can talk to easily is one of the most important things you can do, says Ashley Hill, M.D., medical director of Loch Haven OB/Gyn in Florida. If, like me, you didn't bond with your last Ob-Gyn, then start researching. "You see a lot more investigating with second-time moms," says Dr. Hill, who recommends asking your friends, your family doctor, a labor nurse, or even your pediatrician for a referral.
- DON'T eat for two.
A lot of women put on more weight than planned the first time around. "I learned the hard way that pregnancy isn't an excuse to eat anything and be lazy," says Hannah Mitchell, mom of one from Searcy, Arkansas. "It affected everything negatively. I'm taking care of myself physically better this time." Feel like your weight is a losing battle from the start? Don't throw in the towel, says Rebecca Starck, M.D., department chair of OB-GYN at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. "Even if you started your second pregnancy at a higher BMI than last time, it's still important to focus on healthy diet and exercise." It's hard to stick to good habits when you're a busy mom, but gaining too much is not only bad for you, it's unhealthy for baby, too, and can make delivery more difficult.
- Repair your core and REALLY do those Kegels this time.
According to Leah Keller, CEO and co-founder of The Dia Method, more than 60 percent of women suffer from some kind of abdominal separation (or Diastasis Recti) postpartum. That growing bump will make it worse and could lead to back pain, weakened push muscles, and even stress incontinence (that's peeing when you sneeze). Doing the right core exercises (not crunches or sit-ups) now can shrink the gap and will also help you during birth. "‹Just 10 minutes of Keller's "core compressions" a day can make a difference, abdominal separation or not. To do them, draw your belly into your spine and squeeze as you exhale. You also know better than to forget your Kegels this time, right? (No excuses!)
- Prepare your first child.
For most second-time moms, the biggest change is worrying how their first kiddo will adjust. Parenting educator Rachel Cedar, M.S.W., of You Plus 2 Parenting, recommends making simple changes to family routines before baby comes. Asking your partner to take over bath, bedtime, and wake up well before your due date will help smooth the transition, she says. Thinking about potty training or switching your eldest to that big kid bed? Don't make any big changes two to three months before or after bambino arrives, Cedar advises.
- Look forward to a (potentially) easier birth.
Just because you're a second-timer doesn't mean you're not freaking out about the delivery. The good news is that second births are often easier and shorter, according to both Dr. Starck and Dr. Hill. Is a difficult first delivery making you nervous? Discuss what happened with your doctor, read up on birth and pain management techniques, and consider hiring a doula for extra support. "I'm educated this time," says pregnant mom of two Gina Rzetleny of Valparaiso, Indiana. "The first two I didn't know much about my rights, or that there were other options to pregnancy and birth."
Cesarean mamas who don't want a repeat should talk to their OB-Gyn to see if attempting a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) is right for them. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), it's a safe choice for most women.
- Get to the hospital earlier.
"Second labor is almost always faster than the first because your body knows what to do," Dr. Hill says. So be prepared with babysitters on call and your bag packed, especially if you had a short labor last time. "An hour after my first contractions I was doubled over a block away from the hospital, convinced I was going to deliver the baby on the sidewalk," says Briana Hafer, a mom of two from Chicago. "Luckily, I made it and delivered within the hour." Make a plan with your doctor, so you don't deliver in the parking lot and end up on YouTube!
- Don't sweat it—you've got the mom thing covered!
Last time around you probably spent a lot of time preparing. You read books, browsed online articles and blogs, talked to other moms, and even went to parenting classes. This time you barely have time to think about the baby—and when you do, the guilt sets in. But don't sweat it. "With the first, you're about to become a mother. With the second pregnancy, you're already a mother," Hafer says. You have to split your energy between looking after both of your kids (and yourself), starting now. So spending time playing Legos with your first rather than reading that baby development book is definitely ok.