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Your Second Pregnancy

Most women find that their second pregnancy is different from their first. For example, the intensity of fatigue or how soon you feel the baby kick may be unlike what you experienced when you carried your first child. After all, life is different now -- you're toting around a toddler or preschooler -- and your body is different, too. It has gone through childbirth already. If you're expecting again, here are some typical ways pregnancy changes:

Here are three changes in the way you carry and feel your baby in the womb:

1. You feel your baby move sooner. One of the earliest differences a mother notices in her second pregnancy is that she feels her baby moving sooner than the first time. A first-time mom generally notices the baby kicking by the fifth month; an experienced mom, by four months. This is probably because she already knows what a baby moving inside her feels like and recognizes his weak early kicks and wiggles. At three months of pregnancy, your baby's movements may feel like tiny bubbles or butterfly wings brushing against the uterus. First-time moms sometimes mistake these flutters for a bit of intestinal gas, not realizing until later that it was their baby all along.

2. You tend to show about a month sooner. After having a baby, your uterus doesn't shrink all the way down to its previous size, which gives it a head start in growing during the next pregnancy.

3. You carry your baby lower. Your abdominal muscles get stretched so much by the first pregnancy that they're weaker. As a result, they can't support a baby as well as they did before, so the fetus drops lower in your abdomen. The upside to carrying lower is that you'll probably breathe more easily and eat more comfortably than in your first pregnancy. The downside? You may find that the urge to urinate frequently starts earlier and you may have increased pelvic discomfort from the additional pressure on your bladder and pelvic area. You can relieve some of the discomfort with Kegel exercises, which strengthen the pelvic muscles.

To do a Kegel, tighten and release the muscles around your vaginal and urinary opening, as though you were trying to hold back urine. Hold each Kegel for a count of ten, and try to do at least 10 sets of 10 each day. Also, you can apply a cold pack to the area or soak in a tub of cool water.

Carrying lower may also result in added strain on your lower back. Ask your physician or childbirth educator about abdominal strengthening exercises that can reduce back pain. Also take the following precautions during your daily activities:

- Avoid heavy lifting or arching your back.
- When standing, keep the muscles in your lower back relaxed by bending your knees.
- When resting, lie on your side with a pillow between your legs or one or both knees bent.
- If you'll be sitting for a while, relieve some of the pressure on your lower spine by resting your feet on a low stool.

Your Life as a Mom

What makes a second pregnancy harder than the first is that you have an older child to care for. Toting around an older child can only exacerbate pregnancy problems such as fatigue and back pain. Here are three ways you can make things easier on yourself.

1. Learn creative lifting techniques. If your toddler needs help getting into the bathtub or onto her bed, teach her to use a footstool or get down on one knee alongside the tub or bed and let your child use you as a footstool while you support her. When she wants to sit on your lap, sit down first and then help her climb up by herself. If your firstborn is too young to help herself, make sure you bend with your knees and then push up with your legs when picking her up. You may also want to try wearing a maternity abdominal support garment, available at maternity shops and some department stores.

2. Eat healthy. It may be easier to eat right and maintain a good energy level by grazing throughout your day: Divide your usual three meals into six, or snack between meals. The trick is to keep easy, healthy food on hand, so stock up on low-fat yogurt and cheese, carrot and celery sticks, and plenty of fresh fruit. Have four servings of milk or other calcium-rich foods every day, and take your prenatal vitamin.

3. Stay energized. In addition to healthy eating, two keys to pumping up your energy level are physical activity and rest. Physical activity boosts energy by making your heart pump a little faster, which moves more oxygen throughout your body and brain to wake up those sleepy cells. Try to exercise or walk for 30 minutes a day. If spending 30 minutes at a time walking is too hard, try to take 10-minute walks three times a day. Getting proper rest can also do wonders to increase your energy, so make sure to get eight hours of sleep a night. And take naps when your older child does.
Labor and Delivery

There is good news about second pregnancies. The best part is that both labor and delivery are usually shorter. Your body has already gone through the entire process once, and your cervix has lost some of its original rigidity, making it easier for dilation (opening) and effacement (thinning) to occur.

An experienced uterus also has far more "false," or practice, contractions, called Braxton Hicks. Moreover, because a second baby is carried lower and farther away from the spine, he isn't centered over the bowl of the mother's pelvis, so he can't drop into the lower pelvis as easily. This may be why these early practice contractions don't bring on labor as readily as the first time. To tell the difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and real ones, change your position (stand up, say, if you've been sitting), or walk around. Braxton Hicks contractions will often stop, while active contractions will continue throughout these actions.

Although Braxton Hicks contractions are often referred to as false, they do cause some dilation and effacement of the cervix. And because experienced mothers have more Braxton Hicks contractions, the cervix is usually more dilated and effaced when they are admitted to the hospital than in their first pregnancy. This head start helps shorten the length of labor. And there's more good news: In subsequent pregnancies the cervix and vaginal tissues yield more readily to the pressure of the baby's head, decreasing the amount of time it takes to push the baby out.

Many women also say that the entire nine months goes by much faster the second time around. Before you know it, your new baby will be in your arms.

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