How Will Second Pregnancy Symptoms Be Different?

You may feel like a pregnancy pro, but pregnancy number two can be a surprisingly unique experience. Here's what to expect from second pregnancy symptoms. 

Pregnant woman with toddler touching her belly
Photo: Natalia Deriabina/Shutterstock

Think you know what to expect with baby number two? After experiencing a first pregnancy, you might feel like a pro dealing with pregnancy symptoms, but you might also be surprised to learn that second pregnancies can be a whole other rodeo.

"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.

Your body and life have changed since your last gestation; after all, you're toting around a child now! These changes can impact everything from the intensity of pregnancy fatigue to how soon you'll feel the baby move.

Here's what to expect regarding second pregnancy symptoms.

You'll Feel Baby Kicks Sooner

How soon can you feel the baby move in your second pregnancy? Sooner than you did with your first! A first-time parent generally notices baby kicks by 20 to 25 weeks (though some may sense what's known as "quickening" as early as 16 weeks). By the second time around, you'll likely feel those movements earlier—some as early as 13 weeks.

That's because you're already attuned to recognizing early fetal movements, which feel like tiny bubbles or butterfly wings brushing against the uterus. First-time parents sometimes mistake these flutters for a bit of intestinal gas, not realizing until later that it was the baby all along.

Your Baby Bump Will Show Sooner

With a second pregnancy, you can expect to "show" much earlier. That's because 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!

It could also be from a condition called diastasis recti, which is when the rectus abdominis (those muscles that create a six-pack on your front) separate during pregnancy, creating a vertical gap. That gap in the muscles can weaken your core, and during a subsequent pregnancy, that weakened core may be relaxed enough to "show" sooner than you did during your first pregnancy.

Lower Fetal Position in the Abdomen

Second pregnancies tend to "carry" lower, too. That's because 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.

Here's how to do a Kegel:

  1. Tighten and release the muscles around your vaginal and urinary opening as though you were trying to hold back urine.
  2. Hold each Kegel for a count of ten seconds.
  3. Aim 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 back pain, including intense lower back pain, try these tips:

  • Wear low-heeled (but not flat) shoes with good arch support.
  • Sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees for support.
  • Avoid heavy lifting or arching your back.
  • Practice good posture when sitting, standing, and walking.
  • Practice gentle prenatal yoga stretching to help loosen your muscles.
  • Get daily exercise like a brisk walk or swimming laps.
  • Staying hydrated can prevent back pain.

If you're experiencing intense back pain, ask your doctor about taking a warm bath, receiving prenatal massage or acupuncture, and over-the-counter pain topical medicines such as menthol or lidocaine to help find relief.

Resurgence of Varicose Veins

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

Here is what you can do to prevent varicose veins during pregnancy:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid gaining too much weight
  • Elevate your legs when possible
  • 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.

Hemorrhoids Might Come Back Worse

Hemorrhoids may also become a second pregnancy symptom and could be stronger than ever. The best way to prevent these swollen veins in the anus is to avoid constipation.

One effective way to avoid constipation is to stay hydrated. According to the American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians, a pregnant person should drink between 8 to 12 cups (64 to 96 ounces) of water daily. Not only does water help keep you regular, but it also helps circulate nutrients throughout the body, including the fetus and keeps the amniotic sack nice and full.

Here are some other healthy tips to avoid constipation and hemorrhoids during pregnancy:

  • Eat a high-fiber diet rich in fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid sitting or standing for long periods without a break,
  • Don't delay when you need to use the bathroom.
  • Avoid heavy lifting
  • Do Kegels every day

If constipation is an issue, talk to your doctor about using stool softeners, which are generally considered safe during pregnancy.

Fatigue May Feel More Intense

Since you already have another child to care for, fatigue may be even more noticeable with a second pregnancy. Indulgent naps from your first pregnancy 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 parent 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 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, aim 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 with baby number two.

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 that you might have 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 during vaginal birth.

"Labor is almost always easier in second deliveries," says Dr. Blumberg. "It's too bad everyone can't deliver their second baby first!"

Key Takeaway

Second pregnancy symptoms may be surprisingly different or more intense for many pregnant people. From how soon you feel the baby move to how fast labor and delivery might go, there are plenty ways that your second pregnancy will be different from your first. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you might have about pregnancy symptoms the second time around.

Updated by Sherry LM Jimenez, MSN
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