Second pregnancy: how do you feel about doing it all over again?

Are you terrified of going back to sleepless nights? Worried you can’t love a second child like you love your eldest? Or maybe you’re feeling more confident now you know what to expect. We look at the facts and asked mums how they felt about having their second child…

You’ve been through the whole baby thing once and now you’re pregnant with your second child. But for a lot of women, your feelings on doing it again can be a world away from how you felt with your first.

You might feel more laidback now you know what’s ahead. You might be worried about how you are going to cope with more than one (NHS, 2018a). The difficulty of taking a break from work on maternity leave may be on your mind, or you could be worried about loving another child as much as you adore that gorgeous snoozing three year-old in his Fireman Sam pyjamas.

How can I expect health professionals to manage this birth?

For your second pregnancy, you will have less antenatal appointments with your midwife than you did first time around; that is, if you have an uncomplicated pregnancy (NHS, 2016). You will have seven appointments, which is three less than for your first pregnancy (NICE, 2017).

On the other hand, if you had a Caesarean section for your first birth or any other complications like pre-eclampsia you’ll have more antenatal appointments. And if your first baby was born early or had a low birth weight, you will also be seen more often (NICE, 2017).

Just because you had a complicated first pregnancy does not mean you will necessarily have a difficult time again. Most women who have had a caesarean section can have a vaginal delivery with their next baby (NHS, 2018b). It partly depends on why you had a caesarean section and how many caesareans you've had. Your GP, midwife or obstetrician will be able to advise you.

If you had a difficult first birth, you might want to arrange a debrief of that birth with a midwife. This will give you a chance to hear the midwife go through what happened and answer any questions that you still have. Nobody knows whether there are any psychological benefits of doing this (Bastos et al, 2015). Yet you might find it helps you to understand why interventions happened and decide what you want for this birth.

What differences will there be between my first pregnancy and this?

One exciting difference will be that you will feel your baby move earlier than you did last time, possibly as early as 16 weeks (RCOG, 2012).

Another thing that you might be pleased about is that your birth is likely to be quicker. First labours last on average for eight hours but are unlikely to last over 18 hours. Whereas second and subsequent labours last on average five hours and are unlikely to last over 12 hours (NICE, 2014).

You’ll probably be glad to know too that subsequent births are more likely to be straightforward than first births. More women have vaginal births in subsequent births than in first births. Rates of assisted delivery (forceps or ventouse) were lower than for first timers, at 71% versus 50%. Plus, emergency caesarean rates were lower, at 21% of subsequent births versus 9% for first births (CQC, 2013).

What about looking after myself while I still have to look after my first child?

Sleep

More than two thirds of women report sleep disturbances during pregnancy and this can be even harder if you have a young child waking you too (Reichner, 2015).  Feeling tired won't harm you or your baby but it might leave you feeling low (NHS, 2018a).

Try to rest when you can and remember to try to sleep on your left side and not flat on your back (NHS, 2018c). Make time to sit with your feet up during the day, and accept any offers of help from colleagues and family. If you have problems sleeping during pregnancy, your midwife should be able to give you advice about how to get into a good sleep routine. Your midwife might suggest things like relaxing and avoiding caffeine before bed time (NICE, 2018).

Infections

Young children have underdeveloped immune systems and your immune system is weakened in pregnancy. So you might find it more difficult to fight all the infections around you (British Society of Immunology, 2017).

You can be vaccinated against flu and whooping cough to help protect you and your unborn child. All pregnant women are advised to have the whooping cough vaccination ideally from 16 to 32 weeks of pregnancy (NHS, 2018d).

Protecting your bump

You may also be concerned about protecting your pregnant belly from knocks by your existing child. Remember that your baby is cushioned in fluid to help protect them in the womb but teach your child about how to treat your bump and praise them when they are gentle.

You might want to talk to your child about the new baby or read books about pregnancy and babies with them. Remind your child too that you also looked after them when they were inside by showing them pictures of you pregnant with them.

You could also try to spend some time alone with your older child on a regular basis. That way they don’t feel they need to compete for your attention (Family Lives, 2018).

Thoughts on how second pregnancy might be different

We asked a host of different women to tell us their honest thoughts on being pregnant the second time around…

“I felt more confident and mindful of it rather than existing ‘in’ it. I knew it would be my last so I tried to soak it all in and I was more relaxed. I enjoyed a wine or two in stark contrast to first pregnancy too…” Jen

“I’m less worried about pregnancy and what to expect re birth. But I’m definitely worried about regressing back in to skint-land and losing the work-life balance I’ve built up over the last four years. I’m also worried about loving two little people equally and not sure I’ll have the time to do it well.” Joanne

“I’m definitely excited to meet her but I’m mostly petrified that I’m going to lose the work/life/parent/me balance that I’ve so finely tuned in the last 18 months. This time around I’m more aware of what I mentally need – and more scared of it going.” Julia

“I wish I had more contact with my midwife. I’ve had far fewer appointments this time and I still want the same level of reassurance and support as I did last time.” Catherine

"I was more nervous than I was with my first child. I'd had some complications towards the end of my first pregnancy and the work/family juggle didn't quite go to plan. So I knew more than last time that it might not go quite how I wanted it to.” Lisa

“One thing I haven’t ever worried about, perhaps oddly, is the old ‘Will I love him as much as my first?’ question. I know how much I loved my eldest as soon as he was here and I can’t imagine it being any different.” Caroline

“I felt like my pregnancy wasn’t real second time around to be honest. First time it felt like it was a major event but second time no-one was very sympathetic to the fact that I felt terrible with morning sickness. There was a slight air of ‘Well you’ve done it once, you know the drill.” Ruth

“My overriding feeling is one of massive guilt. I can’t have a daily lie-down with the baby bonding and listening to hypnobirthing apps because there is no time. And I can’t run around as much as I want to with my toddler. Guilt, guilt, guilt. Is this just life now with two kids?!” Suze

“When I found out I was pregnant with my second, I felt utter terror about going through it all again after a terrible first birth experience. But it turns out my fears were unfounded.  Learning from my first experience, I was more vocal about asking for what I needed and taking pain relief instead of trying to be an unrewarded hero. Giving birth to my son was a complete joy. He was my new mate who restored my faith in the process.” Jo

“Last time I was working to a tick list of having to make everything perfect and buy everything as though the due date was a deadline. This time I’m a lot more chilled out and realise that as long as he’s fed and warm, he’ll be absolutely fine.” Nush

This page was last reviewed in November 2018

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

NCT also provide Refresher antenatal courses for those parents who have already had at least one baby. They offer a chance to reflect and build on past birth experiences and prepare yourself for looking after your new baby.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

Bastos MH, Furuta M, Small R, McKenzie-McHarg K, Bick D. (2015) Debriefing interventions for the prevention of psychological trauma in women following childbirth. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.(4):CD007194. Available from: https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD007194.pub2/full   [Accessed 1st December 2018]

British Society of Immunology. (2017) A guide to childhood immunisation. Available from: https://www.immunology.org/sites/default/files/Vaccineguidebook.pdf  [Accessed 1st December 2018]

Care Quality Commission. (2013) Survey of women’s experiences of maternity care. Available from: https://www.cqc.org.uk/sites/default/files/documents/maternity_report_for_publication.pdf  [Accessed 1st December 2018]

Family Lives. (2018) Introducing a new baby to siblings. Available from: https://www.familylives.org.uk/advice/pregnancy-and-baby/you-and-your-baby/introducing-a-new-baby-to-siblings [Accessed 1st December 2018]

NHS. (2016) Antenatal appointment schedule. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/antenatal-appointment-schedule/  [Accessed 1st December 2018]

NHS. (2018a) Feelings, relationships and pregnancy. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/feelings-worries-relationships-pregnant/  [Accessed 1st December 2018]

NHS. (2018b) Vaginal birth after caesarean section (VBAC) Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/planning-another-pregnancy/  [Accessed 1st December 2018]

NHS. (2018c) Tiredness in pregnancy. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/tiredness-sleep-pregnant/ [Accessed 1st December 2018]

NHS. (2018d) Whooping cough vaccination. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/whooping-cough-vaccination-pregnant/  [Accessed 1st December 2018]

NICE. (2014) Intrapartum care for healthy women and babies. Clinical guideline CG190. Available from: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg190 [Accessed 1st December 2018]

NICE. (2017) Antenatal care for uncomplicated pregnancies Clinical guideline CG62. Available from: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg62 [Accessed 1st December 2018]

NICE. (2018) Antenatal and postnatal mental health: clinical management and service guidance. Clinical guideline CG192. Available from: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg192/ifp/chapter/Sleep-problems-in-pregnancy  [Accessed 1st December 2018]

RCOG. (2012) Your baby’s movements in pregnancy. Available from: https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/patient-information-leaflets/pregnancy/pi-your-babys-movements-in-pregnancy.pdf [Accessed 1st December 2018]

Reichner CA. (2015) Insomnia and sleep deficiency in pregnancy. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4935047/ [Accessed 1st December 2018]

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