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Most women find that their second pregnancy is different from their first. For example, the intensity of fatigue or how soon you feel the baby kick may be unlike what you experienced when you carried your first child. After all, life is different now — you’re toting around a toddler or preschooler — and your body is different, too. It has gone through childbirth already.
There is good news about second pregnancies. The best part is that both labor and delivery are usually shorter. 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.
An Experienced Uterus
An experienced uterus also has far more “false,” or practice, contractions, called Braxton Hicks. Moreover, because a second baby is carried lower and farther away from the spine, he isn’t centered over the bowl of the mother’s pelvis, so he can’t drop into the lower pelvis as easily.
Braxton Hicks Contractions
This may be why these early practice contractions don’t bring on labor as readily as the first time. To tell the difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and real ones, change your position (stand up, say, if you’ve been sitting), or walk around. Braxton Hicks contractions will often stop, while active contractions will continue throughout these actions.
Braxton Hicks Contractions and Their Effect on Labor
Although Braxton Hicks contractions are often referred to as false, they do cause some dilation and effacement of the cervix. And because experienced mothers have more Braxton Hicks contractions, the cervix is usually more dilated and effaced when they are admitted to the hospital than in their first pregnancy.
This head start helps shorten the length of labor. And there’s more good news: In subsequent pregnancies the cervix and vaginal tissues yield more readily to the pressure of the baby’s head, decreasing the amount of time it takes to push the baby out.
The Speed of Second Births
On average second babies do pop out a little faster, all things being equal which they aren’t always. Your body is more experienced the second time around and certain parts are, well, let’s just say, a little laxer, allowing for a potentially faster passage and speedier process.
You can expect (probably) for the contractions to come closer together faster so while you might have been advised by your practitioner during your first pregnancy to hang out at home until the contractions were five minutes apart, you might want to head out sooner this time, especially if the hospital is a trek. Things may go more quickly, too, if you’ve already begun to dilate and efface in the prelabor phase. Check with your practitioner for a good protocol this time around.
Other Differences in Second Pregnancies
Some other differences you may experience during your second pregnancy include:
- You feel your baby move sooner. One of the earliest differences a mother notices in her second pregnancy is that she feels her baby moving sooner than the first time. A first-time mom generally notices the baby kicking by the fifth month; an experienced mom, by four months. This is probably because she already knows what a baby moving inside her feels like and recognizes his weak early kicks and wiggles. At three months of pregnancy, your baby’s movements may 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 their baby all along.
- You tend to show about a month sooner. After having a baby, your uterus doesn’t shrink all the way down to its previous size, which gives it a head start in growing during the next pregnancy.
- You carry your baby lower. Your abdominal muscles get stretched so much by the first pregnancy that they’re weaker. As a result, they can’t support a baby as well as they did before, so the fetus drops lower in your abdomen. The upside to carrying lower is that you’ll probably breathe more easily and eat more comfortably than in your first pregnancy. The downside? You may find that the urge to urinate frequently starts earlier and you may have increased pelvic discomfort from the additional pressure on your bladder and pelvic area. You can relieve some of the discomfort with Kegel exercises, which strengthen the pelvic muscles.
Carrying lower may also result in added strain on your lower back. Ask your physician or childbirth educator about abdominal strengthening exercises that can reduce back pain. Also take the following precautions during your daily activities:
- Avoid heavy lifting or arching your back.
- When standing, keep the muscles in your lower back relaxed by bending your knees.
- When resting, lie on your side with a pillow between your legs or one or both knees bent.
- If you’ll be sitting for a while, relieve some of the pressure on your lower spine by resting your feet on a low stool.
Many women also say that the entire nine months goes by much faster the second time around. Before you know it, your new baby will be in your arms.