Planning a 2nd or subsequent pregnancy? We asked Clinical Midwife & Childbirth Educator Lauren Brenton (LB), 5 questions about what to expect from pregnancy to delivery and after, and the effects on your body.
Q.1 What are the main differences to prepare for during my 2nd pregnancy & how different will it be from my first?
LB > Falling pregnant after having your first baby may bring up a lot of emotions. Most of you may expect your pregnancy, labour, and birth to follow a similar path to your first. However, in most cases subsequent pregnancies can be vastly different from your first.
The main differences in a subsequent pregnancy include:
Your bump may begin to show earlier
This is because all your muscles have been stretched before. Your muscles having stretched before may also mean that they may be weaker than they were before. If you are concerned that your abdominal muscles or pelvic floor muscles are weakened, you should see a women’s health physiotherapist.
You may feel baby moving earlier during the pregnancy.
This is due to you being more familiar with what baby’s movements feel like and therefore can notice them earlier.
You may be more tired.
Let’s face it, running after a toddler and being pregnant is hard work both physically and emotionally.
You may have need more emotional support.
Depending on how you found your previous pregnancy and birth experience you may be anxious about your pregnancy, or you may be more relaxed because you know what to expect. If you feel like you need some extra support during your pregnancy, always speak to your healthcare provider.
Q.2 Is a 2nd/3rd pregnancy harder on your pregnant body? What can I expect?
LB > Subsequent pregnancies may be physically harder than your first pregnancy. This may be due to a number of different reasons.
Ways subsequent pregnancies are harder on your body.
You may feel more tired.
You have a toddler or older child to care for as well as being pregnant. Often your physical health and wellbeing can get neglected – plus the added exhaustion from looking after a toddler!!
You may experience more heaviness & more swelling.
The hormone of pregnancy called Relaxin is responsible for relaxing all the muscles and ligaments of the body in preparation for your growing baby. This may mean that you experience more of a heaviness feeling in subsequent pregnancies and/or feel more swollen in subsequent pregnancies. In addition, you may also feel increased pain in your pelvis as the ligaments loosen and prepare for your baby’s descent. The loosening of these muscles may make you more uncomfortable during your subsequent pregnancy.
You may experience more frequent Braxton Hicks contractions earlier in your pregnancy.
These are your body’s way of preparing for labour and are usually of no concerns. If you are having painful contractions before 37 weeks, it is essential to contact your healthcare professional immediately. Frequent Braxton Hicks contractions may add to the physically demanding nature of subsequent pregnancies, thus making it harder on your body.
You may develop Varicose Veins
You are at an increased risk of developing Varicose Veins in second and subsequent pregnancies. During pregnancy, your blood volume increases along with the pregnancy hormone progesterone relaxing the walls of your veins which can cause damage and the valves may not work properly. This means that it can be harder for your veins to push the blood back from your legs up to your heart, causing the blood to pool and therefore the development of varicose veins. In subsequent pregnancies, the walls of your veins and your valves may already be damaged and weakened, placing you are at an increased risk of developing Varicose Veins in subsequent pregnancies.
Q.3 Is delivery easier and faster with subsequent pregnancies? Is there anything I need to be mindful of?
LB> In terms of labour and birth, generally subsequent labours are shorter in both the first and second stages than first labours.
Just as all the muscles have stretched before, your body knows what to do when it comes to labour. It is like running a marathon for the first time, the first one is the hardest and feels so long. Then every marathon after that feels easier because your muscles and mind know exactly what to do. It is the same with labour and birth.
First time around, your body has never had contractions before and has never used muscles to push a baby through and out the birth canal. The second time around, your body knows exactly what to do, how to have efficient contractions and the best way to push your baby out.Be mindful of your mind, as your body knows what to do, your mind does to. In saying that, previous experiences may play on your mind and may stop you from relaxing and staying calm in your labour.
If you have questions or concerns from your previous birth, it is important to try and unpack and work through these feelings prior to going into labour with your subsequent birth. That way, you can stay calm, focused, and have ways to help you positively cope through your labour and birth.
Q4. After birth does my body change more with subsequent births? What are the risk factors I should be aware of?
LB> There are a number of possible changes to be aware of. Below are just some.
Weakened abdominal muscles & pelvic floor.
Your body does change after each birth, as the muscles are stretched again and again. This may lead to weakness in your abdominal muscles and potentially abdominal separation as well as potential weakness in your pelvic floor. Weakness in your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles is more common in subsequent pregnancies and the risk increases in each pregnancy.
Medical conditions reoccurring
It is also more common for women who have experienced medical conditions in their previous pregnancy to experience these again in subsequent pregnancies, such as diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and preterm labour.
Pelvic organ prolapse.
You should be aware of the signs of pelvic organ prolapse. This occurs when the pelvic organs such as the bladder, uterus, or rectum, start to bulge into the vaginal canal due to weakness in the pelvic floor. The risk of pelvic organ prolapse increase with each pregnancy and common symptoms include:
- Feeling of pressure or fullness in the pelvic region
- A bulging or protrusion in the vagina or rectum
- Difficulty with bowel movements or urination
- Urinary incontinence or leaking of urine.
- Painful intercourse
- Lower back pain
- Vaginal bleeding or discharge
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention promptly. Your healthcare provider can evaluate your condition and recommend appropriate treatment options to relieve your symptoms and prevent further damage to your pelvic organs.
Q5. As a mum of 4 – how different was your experience with each for pregnancy, birth & postpartum?
LB> Each of my pregnancies were very different, however it was my last pregnancy that stood out for me.
Heaviness in pelvis
The feeling of heaviness in my pelvis and vagina was almost unbearable, then add in swelling from being on my feet all day and I was so uncomfortable. This heaviness feeling during my pregnancy was not something I had experienced in my previous pregnancies and was attributed to the stretching of the pelvic floor muscles for the fourth time. I was able to improve these symptoms through using TheRY pregnancy compression tights at the time to help me feel supported and reduce swelling.
I think that my healing postpartum got better after each birth, however I attribute this to being more proactive in supporting my muscles, focusing on rest, and preparing for my postpartum period. I also saw a women’s health physiotherapist in conjunction with wearing my compression tights after my last baby to help strengthen my abdominal and pelvic floor muscles after my baby was born and I feel that this made a massive difference compared to all of my other postpartum periods.
It is so important that you prioritise your health and wellbeing throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period, to help you with both your physical and emotional health. Focusing on supporting your muscles, especially in subsequent pregnancies can help reduce your risk of complications in your pregnancy and postpartum period. If you are concerned, always seek advice from your healthcare professional.
One Mama Midwife - Lauren Brenton
Clinical Midwifery Specialist | Childbirth Educator | Mama of 4
Helping to educate, inspire & empower