You may feel like a pregnancy professional, but carrying baby number two can be a surprisingly unique experience. Here’s what to expect regarding second pregnancy symptoms. 

By Lisa Moran and Sherry LM Jimenez, MSN
Updated February 25, 2020
Natalia Deriabina/Shutterstock

Think you know what to expect with baby number two? You might want to reconsider. "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. 

Your body and life have changed since your last gestation; after all, you’re toting around a child now! These changes can impact, for example, the intensity of fatigue or the frequency of baby kicks. Here’s what to expect regarding second pregnancy symptoms

Earlier Baby Kicks

A first-time mom generally notices baby kicks by the fifth month of pregnancy, but the second time around, she might feel them around month four. That’s because she’s already attuned to recognizing early fetal movements, which feel like tiny bubbles or butterfly wings brushing against the uterus. First-time moms sometimes mistake these flutters for a bit of intestinal gas, not realizing until later that it was Baby all along.

Faster Reveal of the Baby Bump

Once your abdominal muscles and skin expand during pregnancy, they're never quite as taut again. So as a second pregnancy symptom, "you'll look bigger sooner because your rectus abdominis muscle has already been stretched out," says Dr. Holmstrom. Don't feel bad about having to break out all of your old maternity clothes sooner!

Lower Fetal Position in the Abdomen

Your weakened abdominal muscles can't support a baby as well as they did before, so the fetus drops lower in your abdomen. The upside is that you'll probably breathe more easily and eat more comfortably than in your first pregnancy. The downside? You may suffer from frequent urination and pelvic discomfort from the additional pressure on your bladder and pelvic area.

You can relieve these second pregnancy symptoms with Kegel exercises, which strengthen the pelvic muscles. (To do a Kegel, tighten and release the muscles around your vaginal and urinary opening, as though you were trying to hold back urine. Hold each Kegel for a count of ten, and try to do at least 10 sets of 10 each day.)

Intense Lower Back Pain

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. Avoid heavy lifting or arching your back.

Resurgence of Varicose Veins

Unfortunately, if you experienced varicose veins in your first pregnancy, they may come back with a vengeance. "Since these veins were stressed in your first pregnancy, they're more vulnerable the second time," explains Dr. Holmstrom. 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.

More Severe Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids may also come back as a second pregnancy symptom—and they could be stronger than ever. The best way to prevent these swollen veins in the anus is avoiding 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. 

Unrelenting Fatigue

Remember those lovely Saturday afternoon naps you took during your first pregnancy? Those indulgences might be long gone, thanks to your first child’s 6 a.m. wake-up call and 2 a.m. visits to your bed. What’s a busy mother to do? "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." 

You can also regain energy with a healthy diet, regular exercise routine, and sufficient sleep. Divide your usual three meals into six, and try to exercise for 30 minutes a day. Physical activity boosts energy by making your heart pump a little faster, which moves more oxygen throughout your body and brain to wake up those sleepy cells. And since getting proper rest can also do wonders to increase your energy, make sure to get eight hours of sleep a night, and take naps when your older child does.

More Braxton Hicks Contractions

Thanks to your already stretched-out uterine muscles, you may experience more Braxton Hicks contractions leading up to delivery. To tell the difference between "fake" Braxton Hicks contractions and real ones, change your position (for example, stand up if you've been sitting) or walk around. Braxton Hicks contractions will often stop, while active contractions will continue throughout these actions.

Shorter Labor and Delivery

Perhaps the best second pregnancy symptom is shorter labor and delivery. Your body has already gone through the entire process once, and your cervix has lost some of its original rigidity, making it easier for dilation (opening) and effacement (thinning) to occur. “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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