You’ve been pregnant before, but that doesn’t mean that your second pregnancy will be the same. For some, their pregnancies are very similar; for others they are like chalk and cheese. No matter how similar your pregnancies are, however, the one thing you haven’t done before is to be pregnant with another child to look after. In this incredibly helpful article, Sarah Ockwell-Smith looks at what might be different second time around.
- Time flies With your first pregnancy you probably knew exactly how big your baby was at any given point and what fruit or vegetable their size compared to. And when people asked how far gone you were, you could doubtless reply with the exact number of weeks and days. This time, busy with another child to look after, you may struggle to remember how many weeks you are and have very little idea about the size of your baby, much less have time to fill in a pregnancy journal every week. This can often leave you feeling guilty, for focusing less on number two than number one. But on the plus side, the pregnancy tends to fly by!
- Less focus on birth and more on afterwards When you’re pregnant for the first time it’s hard to really think about life after the birth. When I taught antenatal classes, it was always difficult to get first- time parentsto- be to think about life with a newborn; they were so focused on giving birth that they didn’t have any headspace to devote new parenthood. The second time around, this is often flipped on its head, with secondtime parents being more focused on life once the new baby arrives and preparing their firstborn for the arrival of a sibling. It’s still important to think about the birth though, which is why I have devoted a whole chapter to it (see Chapter 6).
- Fewer new friends You’re less likely to make new friends who are at the same stage of pregnancy as you. The first time around, you may well have gone to antenatal classes, or meet-ups afterwards with parents of similar-aged babies. This time, you will probably keep the parent friends that you already have.
- More tiredness Combine the lack of opportunity to rest, the physical demands of looking after a busy young child, the sleepless nights that often accompany the tiring days and the exhaustion that new pregnancy brings and it’s likely you will feel more tired this time.
- Sensitive breasts Breast sensitivity is common in pregnancy, particularly in the first trimester as your body adjusts to the hormonal changes. If you are still breastfeeding your firstborn, however, you may find that they become significantly more sensitive. Some mums find that they need to restrict or limit feeds until this sensation passes, others feel that they need to stop breastfeeding, though many continue. I will discuss tandem feeding (breastfeeding both the new baby and your firstborn) more in the next chapter.
- Bump size Most mums ‘show’ quicker with their second pregnancy and their bump will probably be bigger. In part, this is because your body has already stretched after the birth of your first baby and you may also eh, be slightly heavier yourself. Research has also shown that second babies are, on average, 138g bigger than first babies.
- Diastasis recti After the birth of your first baby, your abdominal muscles may not have returned to normal, leaving a gap between the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscle. Known as diastasis recti, this separation causes weakened abdominal muscles and can lead to back pain. If you suspect this is an issue for you, then either a personal trainer qualified in working with pregnant mums or a physiotherapist can help with specific exercises.
- Weaker pelvic floor Your first pregnancy and birth are likely to have impacted on your pelvic- floor strength and you may find that it is weaker during your second pregnancy, leading to a degree of bladder incontinence. If you don’t feel that pelvic- floor exercises are working for you, speak to your midwife or GP about alternative options.
- Braxton Hicks Although you would have experienced Braxton Hicks (or ‘practice’) contractions with your first baby, you may well find that you notice them more and experience them more strongly in your second pregnancy. They are also likely to start earlier than they did the first time around.
- Shorter pregnancy Research has shown that second pregnancies are an average of five days shorter than first ones.
- Less frequent midwife appointments If your first pregnancy and birth were uncomplicated, you will probably need fewer midwife appointments second time around because you are less liable to develop complications. Mums- to- be who are pregnant for the first time usually have around ten appointments with their midwife or doctor, whereas second- time mums usually have around seven.
- No antenatal or pregnancy classes For a first pregnancy, most parents- to- be attend antenatal preparation classes of some form and many attend pregnancy exercise classes. Second time around, there is obviously less time for these, as well as childcare to consider. You’re also unlikely to be invited to NHS birth preparation courses. I genuinely believe, however, that both are hugely beneficial second time around, and I will talk a little more about this in Chapter 6, when looking at second births.
- Less help When you’re pregnant with your second child, people are often not as forthcoming with help as they were the first time. They seem to think that because you’re an ‘old hand’ at this now, you don’t need help. Ironically, however, your second pregnancy is probably when you need the most help. While the lack of fuss and constant questioning may be welcome, it can also leave you feeling a little overlooked and uncared for. See page 70 for more about the importance of asking for help.
Extract from The Second Baby Book by Sarah Ockwell-Smith, published by Piatkus.