I don’t know exactly what I expected, but after my first and difficult pregnancy, I was hoping to have an easier experience the second time around. Wishful thinking, perhaps, but one can hope, right? In truth, no matter what your first pregnancy was like, it won’t necessarily determine what your second or subsequent pregnancies will be like.

There are certain clinical issues that may present in pregnancy, and once you’ve experienced them, you may be more likely to experience them again. This includes (but is not limited to):
- gestational diabetes
- high blood pressure
- postpartum depression

You and your provider should discuss these issues and have a game plan if you’ve dealt with them before. I was considered high-risk for my first pregnancy and this gave me a free pass to the high-risk group (Maternal Fetal Medicine) for my second pregnancy as well.

The good news is that just because you felt one way in your first pregnancy does not mean you’ll feel that way again. The bad news, fortunately or unfortunately, is that your pregnancies could be completely and utterly different. Regardless, your first and second pregnancies are likely to differ from a physical standpoint in a number of ways.

Here are several ways your first and second pregnancies may be likely to differ:

1. Showing earlier

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Many women find that they look pregnant earlier in second and subsequent pregnancies. This may make it harder to keep the pregnancy a secret than it was the first time around, if that’s something that is important to you. The reason for this is that your uterus has already been stretched before to accommodate the growing pregnancy, and so the abdominal muscles are looser and have memory so they ‘recognize’ the situation sooner! You may need to start wearing maternity clothes, or at least pants with loose waistbands, earlier than you did before.

2. Feeling the baby move

Many women report feeling the baby move earlier in second and subsequent pregnancies. This is most likely due to the fact that you now know what it feels like, so you recognize the sensation sooner.

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3. Braxton-Hick’s contractions

Many women notice these false labor contractions earlier in their second pregnancies. Again, this may be simply because you know what they feel like and can better identify them, or it may be the body’s way of practicing for a process it has done before by telling itself, “Here we go again!”.

4. Breast changes

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Some women feel that their breasts are not as tender as they were the first time around. This is not always the case, but may be due to hormonal shifts, and again, the body’s recognition of something it has experienced before. It’s also possible that you may just be less aware of the tenderness the second time around.
Breast tenderness, soreness, and tingling occur due to a rise in progesterone, a necessary hormone to support pregnancy.

5. Difference in fatigue

Many women report feeling more tired the second time around, and this is probably because while you may be pregnant again, this time you are also chasing after another child, so you can’t rest as easily or as frequently as you might have been able to the first time. On the other hand, some women say that they are a lot less tired and may just not have the time to pay attention to it the way they did the first time, when there were no other children who needed their attention.

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6. Emotions

Many women find that they have somewhat complicated emotions with subsequent pregnancies. How will this baby fit in with our family? How will this addition change the dynamic of our relationship with my first child? With my partner? How will I handle the demands of another baby? These are all completely understandable and common emotions.

7. Shorter labor

Labor in second and subsequent pregnancies is often shorter than first labors. This is not true across the board, but many say that second labors can be up to half as long as first labors. In the cases where this is true, it is due in large part to the body knowing what to do and having it done it before – sort of like riding a bike.

8. Postpartum ‘afterpains’ 

Postpartum cramping, or ‘afterpains’, are typically relatively mild the first time around since your uterine/abdominal muscle tone is better. But these afterpains are usually worse with each delivery since the muscle will have lost some tone and won’t stay contracted as well.

9. Skin changes

Thanks to hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, along with increased blood flow, you may experience or notice skin changes such as melasma (sometimes called the “mask of pregnancy”). About half of pregnant women develop hyperpigmentation, which appears as darkened patches on the face. Personally, I didn’t notice this at all with my first pregnancy, but saw a drastic difference with my second child. Spider veins may also appear due to increased pressure in your blood vessels and weight gain.

While these changes may not all sound appealing, we recognize it is well worth it. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider; your concerns are completely valid and there may be some interventions that could make a big difference as well as make you feel more comfortable.

Were your pregnancies really similar or drastically different? So many people are sure that different pregnancies will mean a different gender baby, or a totally different personality in their baby. Sometimes that may be true, but you never know! We'd love for you to tell us about your different pregnancy experiences in the comments below.

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Disclosure: This post provides content and discussion related to health, wellness, and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog including links should not be considered medical advice and should not be construed as such. Any health/wellness information should not be considered an alternative or replacement for information given to you by a licensed physician. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with a licensed physician.



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Linda Scruggs

Linda Scruggs RN, BSN serves as a resource for parents in the digital space, creating helpful health and wellness content. She has specialized for over 12 years in reproductive medicine, and family and women's health as a nurse. A mom of two young children, her work can be seen on her own blog via her site, lindascruggs.com, as a contributor to The Huffington Post, and created the patient education program in one of the top fertility centers in the country. Linda is all about empowerment in motherhood and would love to connect.



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