Are second pregnancies harder than the first?

Samantha Redgrave-Hogg
By Samantha Redgrave-Hogg,
updated on Apr 5, 2023

Child kisses pregnant mother's bump

I’ve been pregnant before, so why am I finding it more challenging this time? Can I cope with doing it all again? And is it normal to feel anxious?

Pregnancy can be an anxious time. According to Kings College of London, one in four pregnant women experiences mental health issues, with anxiety and depression being the most common problems among those women surveyed. And it doesn’t necessarily matter if it’s your first, second or third child. Despite having gone through it before, you might find that things are a bit more difficult this time. Of course, it might not feel this way and you may be having a positive experience  – all pregnancies are unique after all - but if you’re struggling, there is help out there.

When it comes to your second pregnancy, common symptoms like pregnancy fatigue can feel worse than they did the first time around, with many people finding this the most demanding part of expecting for the second time. Running around after your first child can mean you feel more tired and have less time to cherish those lovely moments with your unborn baby. But there are some things that can help you feel better.

What can I do to resolve pregnancy fatigue?

Eat well

Eating healthily will help you in so many different ways - the more nutrient dense your diet is, the better you will feel. Gut health pretty much affects the whole body - from your hormone health to your mental health. High-sugar snacks are so handy when you are busy with life, but they will only give you a temporary boost followed by a big energy belly-flop. The last thing you want is to feel even more exhausted. Keeping well-hydrated and eating nutrient-rich foods like vegetables, whole grains, and good sources of protein will help you maintain energy levels. There are certain foods to avoid during pregnancy so just be aware of that when raiding the fridge for a quick nutritious snack.

Find out more about how nutrition can boost energy levels and how working with a qualified nutritionist can be helpful.

Pregnancy yoga

If you’re on the lookout for some gentle ways to move your body, yoga postures can stabilise energy levels and help you feel calmer. There are oodles of benefits. Not only can yoga prepare those essential muscles for delivery, but it can also improve stamina and vitality –  two things you will definitely need when balancing the demands of two children. If you attend a local class, you may learn some breathwork, helping you to improve your mood and stress levels. And it’s so lovely to take yourself away from the hullabaloo of the house to create some special bonding time with your baby. Connecting with other second-time parents might help too if you are feeling a bit alone or isolated.

If you are looking for more pregnancy wellness ideas, our holistic guide to pregnancy stress and anxiety walks you through some helpful tips, such as aromatherapy and acupressure.

Rest when you can

The juggling act of being pregnant while looking after your first child might mean you forget about taking time for yourself. There is a lot happening to your body when carrying a baby. The American Pregnancy Association break down the hormonal changes during the three trimesters. Naturally, you are going to feel more tired with the surges in blood production and progesterone during the first trimester. And as the baby feels heavier later on, your energy levels might take a nosedive. If you’re wondering why you haven't had that shiny second-trimester feeling this time, it might be because you’ve ‘popped out’ a bit sooner due to more relaxed uterine muscles, making you feel more uncomfortable.

Are there some things you can do at home or work to help you find those micro-moments of relaxation? Breathing techniques are easy to learn and can help you relax. When looking after your first child try to remember that it’s ok to let them play independently (as long as it’s safe) for a while. Or you could even introduce some ‘quiet time’ so you can take a few moments to rest. It’s a tough time for your body so try to shoehorn in those little pockets of rest and self-care.

We are quite good at understanding why self-care is important for our mental health but sometimes forget to do it when we have other people to look after. How does self-care look for you? How do you carve out time for yourself? What feels good for you? Self-care is really anything that nourishes you. Motherhood is so outwardly-focused, it means you might have to be quite active in putting yourself at the top of the pile. You might wonder about some things you can do (or not do) to feel better. Looking at some ways to make life calmer will support your mental health when transitioning from one child to two.

How can I support my mental health during my second pregnancy?

Talk about it

Being pregnant for the second time can feel overwhelming so it is great to see how many celebrity mums have opened up about their second pregnancy experiences. Eurovision TV host, singer, and author Alesha Dixon has opened up about how she struggled with her mental health during her second pregnancy. Many other famous parents have shared their perinatal struggles (period from becoming pregnant up to a year after giving birth), including actress Brooke Shields, who has been candid about her struggles. This hopefully helps other parents feel like they can be more open about their experiences. Sharing how you feel with trusted friends or family members can help you let go of any pressure or worry.

Don’t compare yourself to others

I know this is much easier said than done but try not to think about how other parents find their second pregnancies. Getting ambushed by your negative thoughts will just make you feel unhappy or ‘less than’ in some way, affecting your mental wellbeing. According to the NHS, it’s important not to compare yourself to other pregnant people as everyone experiences their pregnancy differently. Slipping into a comparison net will only make your second pregnancy more difficult- just concentrate on your path and go about life in a way that serves you and your family.

Take each day as it comes

Sometimes there is such a pressure to ‘cope’ or at least look like you are coping. None of us is perfect and you really won’t have all the answers straight away. Some days you might find that you give yourself a hard time for not doing enough. What is enough, anyway? You may need to cut a few corners sometimes, but as long as you are looking after yourself well, you can take care of those around you more effectively. Just take each day and each hour as it comes. Looking too far into the future will probably cause you to feel more anxious.

Find a kinder inner voice

Being pregnant is a rollercoaster of emotions so you might have to dig a little deeper to find a sense of self-compassion. Try talking to yourself as you would a close friend. What would you say to a friend or loved one who is struggling? You would probably tell them they are doing a great job and not to be so hard on themselves. One way of doing this is to look in the mirror every morning and say to yourself out loud a mantra or affirmation. Positive affirmations are just short phrases to help you feel more centred and calm.  It can be anything that feels right for you. Something like ‘I am loved, lovable, and doing the best I can’ is a super start to your day. Your baby bump will also appreciate the extra loving energy.

There is so much to look forward to and many wonderful aspects of being pregnant for the second time. If you are battling with it all and need further assistance, feel free to look at our Counselling Directory for a list of qualified talking therapists, and as always it is imperative to see your G.P. if you are worried or experience any pregnancy warning signs.

In this video psychodynamic counsellor, Sara Sukhija, explains the benefits that counselling can bring during, and after, pregnancy and childbirth.

Ready to reach out for support with second pregnancy anxiety? Connect with a professional on the Counselling Directory.

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