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Rachel Morris

10 Things You Need to Know When Gearing Up for a Second Pregnancy

The second time around can hold some serious surprises.

Remember how unsure you were during your first pregnancy? Everything was a bit of a mystery. Was the pregnancy test really positive? Are you allowed to eat that piece of cheese? Was that your baby’s first kick or just plain old gas? When it comes to your second pregnancy, you might assume you’ll the drill. Been there, done that, right? Well, maybe not.

It turns out, there are aspects of subsequent pregnancies that may surprise you. But being prepared can help you get ready for your second pregnancy and take steps that are best for both your and baby’s health. Here’s what you should know about getting pregnant with your second baby.

1. You Don’t Need to Rush into It

You may beyond excited to bring another baby into your family, but it’s best to wait 12 to 18 months after giving birth to become pregnant again. New research published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal found that waiting only six months between pregnancies can have problematic and sometimes scary outcomes: It may increase the chance of a preterm birth while also raising the risk of death or serious illness for the mother.

If you had a c-section with your first baby, it’s recommended that you wait even longer and postpone trying for a second child for 18 months, says Lakeisha Richardson, an ob-gyn practicing in Greenville, Mississippi. “There’s an increased risk of uterine rupture for a woman who has had a cesarean section if she conceives before the uterus has had time to heal.”

2. You Can Get pregnant While Breastfeeding

While we’re on the subject of putting some space between pregnancies, let’s clear up a couple misconceptions. First, you can indeed become pregnant while breastfeeding, Richardson says. It is true that women who exclusively breastfeed can experience a delay of their fertility. Why? Because prolactin, the hormone that powers breast milk production, also inhibits the creation of estrogen, and low estrogen levels can halt ovulation. However, estrogen production can kick back into gear if you’re not exclusively breastfeeding (meaning not supplementing with formula or food), and even if you are, there’s no guarantee you aren’t ovulating.

Second, you can get pregnant before you’ve had your period again, Richardson says. That’s because your period isn’t a sign of ovulation, it’s a sign that the egg wasn’t fertilized. You won’t know when your body releases that first egg postpartum and can unwittingly become pregnant. “Women shouldn’t have unprotected sex during the postpartum period until they have been started on birth control,” Richardson says.

3. When You’re Ready for Another Baby, Use Fertility-Friendly Lubricants

If you’re still breastfeeding your first tot while trying to conceive, you may find you need a personal lubricant now more than ever, says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a clinical professor in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale Medical School in New Haven, Connecticut. That’s because breastfeeding causes a decrease in estrogen hormone levels, which can lead to vaginal dryness and discomfort during intimacy. But because many personal lubricants can harm sperm motility (aka how well they swim), it’s important to use a fertility-friendly product, such as Pre-Seed.

4. It May Take Longer to Get Pregnant This Time—or Not

Every pregnancy is different, so it’s challenging to predict how easy or difficult it’ll be to get pregnant with your second child. If you and your partner are having frequent, unprotected sex and don’t become pregnant within a year if you’re younger than 35 (or after 6 months if you’re 35 or older), see your doctor. Some couples may experience secondary infertility, or difficulty becoming pregnant or carrying a baby to term when trying for their second child. That could be due to a number of things, such as impaired sperm production, endometriosis, complications due to a previous pregnancy, and risk factors like age or weight. Your doctor can help determine if a fertility specialist or treatment is right for you and your partner.

5. Your Morning Sickness Symptoms May Change

It’s also tricky to anticipate how you’ll feel when pregnant with baby no. 2. Second pregnancy symptoms certainly can mirror what you experienced with your first—but if you spent a good deal of pregnancy no. 1 bent over the toilet, there’s a chance you’ll be able to dodge morning sickness with your second baby (phew, right?). “Pregnancy symptoms aren’t typically the same for every pregnancy,” says Richardson. “A mother can have severe morning sickness with one pregnancy and none with the next pregnancy.” However, research shows that if women experience hyperemesis gravidarum (HG)—or nausea and vomiting so severe it can lead to hospitalization—during their first pregnancy, they’re highly likely to develop HG again when pregnant with their second child.

6. Your Bump May Show Earlier

A super-common question: When do you start showing with a second pregnancy? According to many moms, it may be much sooner than you did when pregnant with your first. This could be due to changes in the abdominal muscles from the first pregnancy, making baby bumps appear larger earlier on during the second pregnancy. Luckily, you don’t need to buy a brand new maternity wardrobe this time around!

7. You May Feel Baby’s Kicks Earlier

Moms tend to feel fetal movement earlier on during their second pregnancy compared with their first, but not because their baby is moving around any sooner. Instead, you can thank your prior pregnancy experience for the fact that you’re more tuned in and able to quickly recognize that telltale fluttering sensation.

8. Previous Pregnancy Complications Could Recur

If you had gestational diabetes or preeclampsia during your first pregnancy, you’re at an increased risk for these conditions during your second pregnancy. But if you didn’t have preeclampsia during your first pregnancy, your chance of the disorder generally goes down for future pregnancies. Either way, talk with your doctor about what you can do to lower your risk for complications.

9. Your Birthing Options May Change

The old thinking was that if you had a c-section with your first baby, you needed to have a c-section with a second pregnancy—but that’s no longer the case. “Most women are candidates for a vaginal birth after caesarean, or VBAC,” says Minkin In fact, 60 to 80 percent of women have a successful vaginal delivery following a prior c-section. Talk to your doctor about what’s safe for you. Women who have a high vertical scar in the uterus (called a classical incision) or have had a large fibroid removed from the uterus to have a vaginal birth will likely not be candidates for a VBAC, Minkin says.

10. You’ll Find Creative Ways to Manage Your Growing Family

We don’t need to tell you that taking care of two children will be more exhausting than looking after one, but—good news!—you may find being a parent of two tots to be less work than anticipated. If your kids have a big age gap, your oldest child may be able to help with easy tasks around the house, and if your kids are close in age, an assembly-line strategy can help save your sanity. “You can line your children up to feed them and change them at the same time,” Minkin says. “It’s certainly more work than one, but it isn’t double the work.”

Published July 2019

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