Labor & Delivery – What to Expect with your Second Baby

How your second childbirth will be different than your first

So you are expecting your second little bundle of joy! Firstly, let me say congratulations. You might be starting to wonder what your second delivery will be like. Perhaps you had a very challenging labor with your first and now you have anxiety that it will be the same (or worse) with your second. Or maybe it was a breeze for you the first time and now you’re worried that you’re due for a rude awakening. Either way, chances are that your labor will be different with your second. Besides the fact that you will likely pack way less in your hospital bag (what hospital bag?) this time around, here are some other things you can expect:

Sorry to say, but it’s a myth that second babies come earlier.

A survey completed on over 11 thousand moms showed that there isn’t much difference in when first and second time moms will go into labor. Both first and second time mom delivered their babies on average at 39 weeks 5 days. Interestingly, this myth does hold some merit the 3rd child and onward. These moms delivered on average at 39 weeks 0 days (so about 5 days earlier than first and second time moms). You can check out the data from this survey here.

However, you probably will experience Braxton Hicks contractions earlier and more frequently

second time braxton hicks

Not only will you better be able to distinguish Braxton Hicks contractions better from true labor contractions (since you’ve already experienced them), many women experience Braxton Hicks contractions earlier and more frequently with second pregnancies compared to their first. This stems from your experienced uterus better knowing what to expect and practicing for the delivery to come.

You’ll probably spend less time in labor

woman in labor

Starting off with some great news here. According to the care guidelines¹ issued by the National Collaborating Centre for Women’s and Children’s Health, the first stage of labor lasts an average of 3 hours less for non-first timers. For first labors, the first stage typically lasts around 8 hours with a maximum of roughly 18 hours. Contrastingly, for second and subsequent labors, this stage lasts around 5 hours on average with a maximum of 12 hours. This is because with your first baby, your body is inexperienced with the childbirth process; the second time around your body is better prepared. Now it’s no guarantee, but the odds are in your favor for a shorter labor time…woo hoo!

Odds are that you will also push for less time

According to the Mayo Clinic first time mothers and those who have had epidurals might have to push for a little longer. While that can be disappointing to hear as a first time mom, hopefully that is good news to you now. Particularly if you had a vaginal birth already, things *ahem* tend to be a bit more relaxed and your muscles are more prepared than the first time.

If you’re having a second C-Section, the process is pretty much the same

While there are some additional risks that come with c-sections generally and second time c-sections, the good news is that you will already know what to expect. Additionally, if your second one is a planned c-section, you’ll have the added bonus of getting a full night’s rest prior to the surgery, getting more time to prepare, and a much more leisurely feeling pace entering pre-op. I personally had a planned C-Section that turned into an early labor and unscheduled C-section. However, even this felt much more controlled than my first emergency C-Section. I was prepared for what was coming and things generally went much more smoothly for me.

If you try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and you’re a good candidate, there’s a good chance you’ll succeed

Studies have shown a 60-80% success rate for women who attempt VBAC. Obviously, you should talk with your doctor to determine if you are a good candidate and to fully understand the risks associated with both options. However, it’s good to know that a first C-Section does not mean that you have to have a second.

Your second baby might weigh slightly more

second baby weight

One study³ showed a that second babies weighed on average 89 grams (or a little over 3 ounces) more than first borns. So you might be able to enjoy a bit more of that cute little baby fat with your second born.

You’ll be less anxious the second time around

For better or for worse, you’ve already won the hard-earned badge of having given birth once before. There is no teacher quite like experience. You know how it feels, you know how things can take unexpected turns, and you know the light that awaits at the end of the tunnel…when that baby is placed in your arms and you experienced a bond like no other on this earth. You also probably have less time to worry ahead of time with your other child underfoot.

Obviously all of what I shared are generalities, and there are no guarantees when it comes to babies. They have a habit of throwing wrenches in our plans and defying our expectations. Hopefully you have a smooth and easy second delivery, but as you probably already learned with your first, be prepared for anything.

Know that at the end of this journey, you are giving both of your children the priceless gift of a sibling – a lift long friend who will share their same childhood experience. Watching them love each other will be well worth it.

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Wishing you the best of luck with your delivery and new baby! You can read about my different experiences with my two labor & deliveries in my birth story for my first born and my birth story for my second.

– Katie

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out my post on what to buy for baby #2.

Sources:

  1. NCCWCH. 2014. Intrapartum care: care of healthy women and their babies during childbirth. National Collaborating Centre for Women’s and Children’s Health. www.nice.org.uk [Accessed May 2019]
  2. Braxton Hicks Contractions – https://utswmed.org/medblog/vbac/
  3. Bacci, Silvia et al. “Differences in birthweight outcomes: a longitudinal study based on siblings.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 11,6 (2014): 6472-84. doi:10.3390/ijerph110606472

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