The Difference Between First-Time Pregnancies And The Pregnancies That Follow

Here's what to expect if you're expecting for the second or third time.

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“Can I just skip it?”

There I was, 36 weeks pregnant, sitting in my OBGYN’s office, talking about my next appointment. I’d reached the point in the pregnancy that required a visit every week, and I was so over it. My doctor laughed at first, but when she saw I was seriously trying to get out of my next appointment, she assured me that it was important that I show up and have everything checked on again next week. This is just one of many ways my second and third pregnancies were so different from my first. With my first, I anxiously waited for each appointment: it was my chance to check in and make sure that the baby was OK, my chance to get one step closer to giving birth. Yet with my second and third pregnancies, getting to the doctor felt like a huge chore. I had to arrange childcare for my younger kids, take time away from work, and do a lot of waiting for the doctor to tell me what I already knew—your baby is a little big and don’t expect to deliver early. Nothing captures the differences between a first pregnancy and the subsequent pregnancies quite as well as a YouTube video by Esther Anderson, mom of three and blogger at Story of My Life.

In the video, which is set up like a mock interview (think The Office meets What to Expect When You’re Expecting), Anderson answers some of the most common pregnancy questions for an off-screen interviewer. The shot switches between her as a first-time pregnant mom and a third-time pregnant mom. The differences between her answers are hilariously accurate. “Absolutely no lunch meats, no feta cheeses, no sprouts absolutely no caffeine,” she says in the persona that’s meant to be her as a first time mom. The shot changes, to show her as a third time mom, eating a cookie and drinking a cup of coffee. “I gotta have it,” she insists. Moms of multiple children know full well just how drastically life can change between a first pregnancy and a second or third. It’s not that we become lazy, it’s that we simply don’t have the time or energy to keep up with the endless expectations we adhered to the first time around.

All That Time

When you are pregnant with your first, it is easy to find time to focus on documenting your pregnancy and preparing for the arrival of your baby. During subsequent pregnancies, though, you have little ones taking up a lot of your time. It isn’t surprising that many moms let certain things slide, like bump pictures and clothes shopping, during their second pregnancy. “Bump pictures are few and far between! I didn’t miss a week of pictures when I was pregnant with my first,” shares Betsy Larson, who is pregnant with her second child. Larson certainly isn’t alone. Allie Essig, who’s also expecting her second, said she simply hasn’t had to time to devote as much focus to her unborn child. “There is a lot less time to count the days. It has gone by so much faster than my first,” Essig shares. “This baby currently has no clothes to wear if she’s a girl.” “We’re still so excited,” Essig continues, “and I’m looking forward to shifting some focus to baby here in a few weeks… but it certainly hasn’t been all consuming like it was with our first.”

Aches and Pains

Those first pregnancies are certainly uncomfortable, but there is something different about the way your body feels the second or third time around. Many second- and third-time moms-to-be report increased pelvic pressure and hip pain compared to their first pregnancy. This added discomfort isn’t the case for every pregnancy, according to Dr. Sheila Chhutani of Gyn/Ob Associates in Dallas, Texas, but often comes when a body hasn’t fully recovered from the previous birth. “Most of the time the discomfort comes from the pulling and stretching of muscles and ligaments which were strained the first time around,” she says. “If [the women] add extra weight because [they] did not get back to her pre-pregnancy weight … and her workout routine has fallen off because she is now caring for a baby, she will feel more discomfort.” “Also, during the first pregnancy a woman could come home and rest. She could sleep in on her days off,” Chhutani continues. “With a child at home to care for, there is little time to put your feet up. The workload is never-ending, and doing that while pregnant can lead to more discomfort.”

No Rest for the Weary

So, there’s no doubt about it: being a second-, third-, or fourth-time mom can be much more exhausting than the first time around. For the most part, this can be attributed to having younger kids to take care of during the pregnancy. While a first-time pregnant mom might crash on the couch after work, second-time moms are caring for active toddlers or getting school-aged kids to and from activities. Moberly, whose first pregnancy was twins, shared how she had hoped her second pregnancy, a singleton pregnancy, would be much easier than her first. She was disappointed to find that not only was it another high-risk pregnancy, which meant she spent a lot of time in the doctor’s office, it wasn’t as restful as she imagined it would be. “I was so exhausted my entire pregnancy. I had two one-year-olds running around. The sweet mornings of sleeping in and taking naps throughout the day were nowhere to be seen with my second pregnancy,” she says.

It’s No Secret

For many women who aren’t ready to share their news, keeping a pregnancy to themselves gets harder with each new pregnancy. While many first-time moms won’t develop a noticeable bump until well into their second trimester, veteran moms might notice their pants feeling snug very early on in their pregnancies. “The body undergoes changes during the first pregnancy, and it doesn’t fully return to the way it was before pregnancy,” says Chhutani. “The abdominal muscles and ligaments are stretched out as well as the pelvic floor muscles. Women have a tendency to start showing earlier in subsequent pregnancies for this reason.”

Mood Changes

Even though postpartum depression can occur without any history of depression, some moms report having more severe depression with each pregnancy. This has less to do with the pregnancy itself and more to do with the added stressors of caring for multiple children, according to Kimberly Hershenson, a New York City based therapist who counsels mothers facing postpartum depression, miscarriage, and infertility. “Having a history of postpartum depression does increase your risk for subsequent postpartum depression, but it is not guaranteed to happen. Those that have postpartum depression with each pregnancy may find it more difficult because they are not only dealing with their own mental health issues, but they are now caring for numerous children,” she says. “Women may experience exacerbated symptoms of inadequacy because they are not able to be fully present for their children.”

Mom-Boss Confidence

If you’re trying for another, don’t let these things deter you—the differences between first and second pregnancies aren’t all bad. Many moms report feeling more confident and worrying less about the outcome during their second or subsequent pregnancies.

As much as we like to believe we can do everything, let go of the desire to be superwoman!

“I feel much more prepared for this one,” explains Essig. “I did so much research with the first that I don’t need to do now, which eases my mind on many, many issues. We know where we stand with every important issue, and I feel extremely confident in those choices, unlike with our first.” For mother of two Emilie Jane Mense, whose first pregnancy was nearly ten years before her second, the differences were largely about how confident she felt as mother. “I was so much younger with my first,” she says. “It was an entirely new experience, being pregnant as a relatively settled adult who was married and buying a house. I loved being pregnant with my second … I made sure to educate myself the second go-round about birth and nursing and the kind of parent I wanted to be.” For moms dealing with the symptoms of depression, Hershenson urges they faithfully practice self-care. She suggests spending plenty of time outside and prioritizing the things that help you feel rested, like taking a shower or grabbing a quick nap. Lastly, she stresses the importance of asking for help when you have kids running around. “Stay connected to others, whether it’s family, a new mom support group, or friends … As much as we like to believe we can do everything, let go of the desire to be superwoman!” she urges. “Even the most successful people recognize when they need support. Seek professional help if symptoms don’t improve.”

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