It Takes Two: How Is Your Second Pregnancy Different From Your First?

Your second pregnancy is an intriguing time. 

You are no longer new to the process. You have a decent idea of how your body is going to feel, what’s going to change, and how you go about getting through the next few months as you wait impatiently for the baby to arrive. You’ve got the experience under your ever-expanding belt, and you’re more confident the second time. 

Or… you should be. That’s the ideal and it’s undoubtedly how some women in the midst of their second pregnancy feel. They can spend their days planning to make small changes to how they did things last time, daydreaming while browsing an adorable baby boutique, and thinking up names they might like to use. Those are the lucky Moms - and congratulations if you fall into that category! 

But what if, through no fault of your own, your second pregnancy is far more worrisome than you ever found the first?

It can and does happen. There’s a variety of reasons why second time around, everything feels much more difficult. There’s a multitude of reasons why this might be the case, though the following seem to be often quoted - 

  • Your first pregnancy and/or birth was traumatic. While you want a second child very much, you are not looking forward to going through the process again.
  • You are concerned you’re not going to have enough time to look after a second child. Is there enough love to go around? This is a very common concern, and though the answer is undoubtedly “yes”, it can be hard for you to believe in the moment.
  • Concerns about whether another baby will spoil your relationship with your existing child are also common. They might not be rational - nothing changes if you don’t allow it to! - it’s something many women go through.
  • You no longer have the blessing of ignorance! Before your first pregnancy, you probably thought you knew what to expect and how to prepare. You had a firm idea of how it would feel to prepare for birth, drinking the right teas, and learning the right soothing aromatherapy options. You thought you’d stroll through birth and the initial few weeks as a mother. On one level you knew it was hard, but it didn’t really ever hit home - you were too excited to be bogged down by that! This time around, you know how hard it is, and you can’t delude yourself into thinking otherwise! 

All of these (or potentially a mixture of them all together) can mean you look upon your pregnancy with a truly confused mind. On one hand, you welcome the chance for another baby - you want your children to grow up with siblings, and you love the idea of a big family. But there might be those thoughts in the back of your mind, concerns that linger. 

Pregnancy is a time of life that should be enjoyed, so fighting back against those thoughts is a big part of reclaiming your pregnancy from your fears. Thankfully, there are a few tried and tested methods you can use to try that. 

1. Write Everything Down

When we try and keep thoughts buried, they have a habit of popping up when we least expect them. By writing them down, we externalize the problem - and that means we’re far more likely to be able to brush past them.

You might not like the idea of writing down information about a traumatic birth experience. Bringing up bad memories never seems like the answer to everything - but it can actually help. Get all of your concerns down on paper and you will be able to see them for what they are: concerns. Nothing scary about them; just the usual musings of a mind that cares about doing the right thing. 

2. Make Changes Where You Can

In the example of the traumatic birth experience, there might be things you can do to try and stop the same issues from happening. While it’s not possible to safeguard against every single outcome, you might be able to make foreplanning that can stop the same situation from developing again. This might involve speaking openly with your doctor about what happened last time and how damaging you found it; it’s unlikely to be the first time they have heard these issues, so they might have an immediate solution to hand. 

For the other concerns that are less concrete, it’s a little harder to tackle with practical solutions. However, it always helps to talk to someone who is not involved in your family dynamic and can give you honest feedback. If these worries are dominating your mind to the point of spoiling your enjoyment of pregnancy, then it might be worth consulting a therapist for some calming techniques and discussion. 

3. Reframe Your Thinking

Have you ever practiced the idea of affirmations? Positive statements that you repeat to yourself every day. That might sound like nonsense, but thousands of people find them beneficial. 

You could use the same practice to try and reframe your thinking. So, for example: 

“I had a bad birth experience before so I am especially worried about this time…” 

Would be how you would begin. However, you then add on:

“... and that’s why I am determined this time is going to be better.” 

Say this at least 10 times to yourself every morning, looking in the mirror, making eye contact with yourself. It’s a way of framing your past experience (the traumatic birth) as a positive experience on the future (i.e. this time it’s going to be different). 

For other concerns, use affirmations to reassure yourself every day that what you are feeling is normal. While there is no absolute scientific proof that affirmations work, plenty of people swear by them - and it definitely falls into the category of it’s not going to do any harm. We do scientifically know that there is a power in positive thinking, and this is just one way of affirming it to yourself every day. 

4. Use Your Past Experience To Help You Now

One thing that first-time Moms have a tendency for is to do as they are told. We all have an implicit trust in doctors and advice that we receive, so we go along with what we’re told is best, even if it goes against our own instincts.

Second-time around… well, you don’t have to do any of that. If you want to insist on things being a specific way, then you’re free to do so. If you want to give birth at home, or try something different when you’re actually in labor, chances are you’re going to feel more confident to insist upon it this time. And that’s a good thing! You know what you’re doing now. You don’t have the luxury of ignorance anymore, but that does mean you have the power to know exactly how you want things thanks to your experience. 

A second pregnancy is a time when you can really flex your own maternal instincts. If someone tells you something will be good for you and you tried it to the contrary last time, now you can outright contradict them. There is a real power here that lets you connect with the pregnancy you want, rather than what you are told you should want. 

Obviously, this is said with the caveat that you don’t endanger yourself or your child - but you probably knew that already. 

5. Enjoy It 

In the midst of all the concerns, the affirmations, and the changes - try and make time to enjoy your pregnancy. For one thing, it’s the last time in your life when you’re going to be a mother of one, so set some time away for bonding with your existing child as a family. 

There is no doubt that trying to balance motherhood with your second pregnancy makes it a very different experience to the first time you were expecting. You can have hang ups from what went before, concerns about the future, and it can all coalesce into one nine-month period of stress and panic. For these and many more reasons, the differences between your first and second pregnancies are marked. 

However, that doesn’t have to be in a bad way. If you let yourself, you can make this pregnancy better than the first. Trust your instincts and, most importantly, trust your experience. The best way you can influence your second pregnancy is through using what happened during your first, and how you would do things differently a second time around. 

On a final note, remember: talk to someone if you are struggling with any of these issues. If it’s more than the occasional thought flitting across your mind, then reaching out could be the best thing you have ever done. You could speak to your family, your partner, or get some separation by speaking with a counselor - anything so long as you don’t carry the burden by yourself. Make your own self-actualization the defining difference between your first and second pregnancies. 

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