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9 Ways Your Second Labor Will Be Different Than Your First

2021 Update:  We now have FOUR babies. I did this amazing birth program this time around and couldn’t have been more pleased.  Even though my 3rd labor was a whirlwind (2 hours from start to finish), I managed to stay calm with these techniques. 

By the time you get pregnant for the 2nd time, you assume you’re an expert.  The fear of the unknown from your first pregnancy have been replaced with new fears of whether you can handle two kids and how your older child will handle a new sibling. 

My second pregnancy experience was way different than my first!

Those fears ended up being completely off-base because I love both of my boys and my toddler absolutely adores his baby brother.

What did surprise me though is how different my second labor and delivery was compared to my first! Here are just 9 of them:

You’ll Have More False Labors

I had no idea I was even in labor with our first son until my water broke.  After that, it took a total of 6 hours before he was here and in our arms.

If your story is anything like mine, you’ll probably be extremely hyper vigilant and will second-guess every ache and pain convincing yourself you’re in labor during your second pregnancy. 

I even went to the ER and spent 5 hours in a hospital in Louisiana when I thought I was going into labor at 33 weeks.

When Labor Actually Starts You’ll Know It

Then, when the real thing is happening, you’ll know it from the very beginning.  When I went into labor with our second son, I knew from the moment I woke up that something was happening. 

I still questioned myself, but deep down I knew today was the day.

That’s kind of a good thing and a bad thing.  We had plenty of time to get our bags to the car and to get ready to go, but it also gave me way too much time to get nervous about labor and delivery.

Faster Second Labor

I was in the hospital for a total of about 3 hours with our first son before he was born.

This time, from the time we got to the birth center to the time I delivered was exactly 1 hour and 58 minutes.

I hope your labor and delivery will be just as fast!


Nothing is the Same

With our first son, my water breaking was how I knew I was in labor.  This time, my water didn’t break until about 10 minutes before our second son was born.  It actually broke while I was in the pushing stage.

One labor doesn’t tell you much about the next.  I had myself convinced my labors would be mirror images of each other.  Not the case!

What Worked the First Time Might Not Work at All

With my first labor, the best coping mechanism I had was being distracted.  I had no idea I was in labor and then once I realized I was, I had my coworkers by my side to talk to me and keep me distracted.

Consequently, I handled the pain like a champ.  Even when I was in the pushing stage, I think I only doubted myself because it’s how I had seen other women in movies handle their labor. 

Looking back, I know I could have handled that labor and delivery without any self-doubt because the pain was completely manageable.

I was on my back for most of the pushing stage and my midwife rubbing my back gently was all I needed to cope with my labor pains.

This time, my husband had to vigorously rub my lower back to help me handle my back labor.  It was almost as much of a workout for him as it was for me!

Chances of Water Breaking Second Pregnancy

I’ve been asked this by so many mamas expecting their second babies.

To answer this best, let me give you a quick rundown of my labors and water breaking situations.

  • Baby #1 – My water broke with a huge gush at 34 weeks 6 days and he was born completely healthy 6 hours later.
  • Baby #2 – My water broke during the pushing phase.
  • Baby #3 – Again, my water broke while pushing.
  • Baby #4 – I had my membranes stripped and then my water kind of leaked for the next few hours. I wasn’t confident my water even broke until my midwife confirmed it.

The moral of the story, for me at least, is you never know what kind of pregnancy or labor to expect. None of mine have been exactly alike.

You’ll Know What to Expect

This is a blessing and a curse.  The first time around, I had no idea what my body and baby had in store for me, and when it was all over I realized it wasn’t as bad as I had expected.

This time, I knew that the contractions would start to become irregular and come back to back to back and that at some point there would be no break.  It was still overwhelming, but I knew there was an end in sight.

Luckily, that happened pretty soon after we got to our birth center and I had a very quick labor.  I honestly thought I was going to be pushing for an hour and a half like I did with our first son, so I really questioned my ability to handle the pain.

Even though I knew what to expect and nothing in labor was new to me, I was surprised that I wasn’t more confident in my ability to handle natural childbirth. 

I did manage to deliver both of our boys naturally, but I think I’ve finally realized that it will get pretty tough to handle the pain and pressure every time.

The good news – your body knows what to do:

According to the nurse that helped me deliver our second baby, your body knows what to do the second time around, so it’s faster and usually a little easier.

That fact was reassuring to me when I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing.  I kept telling myself “your body knows what to do to get this baby out.”


The Bad News…

The pain might not stop for a few days!  No one told me this ugly truth about second babies.  The first time around, they tell you to nurse frequently and go to the bathroom often because it helps your uterus contract back into shape.

What they didn’t tell me was how painful this would be the second time.  I don’t remember any pain after having our first son. 

After having our second, I was in a lot of pain through the night at the birth center.

I was told this is normal for second babies and each subsequent baby. Apparently your uterus is more stretched out so it takes more contractions to get your uterus back to pre-baby size.

The second night was awful.  We were at home while I laid on a heating pad. My husband had to take care of both babies while I moaned in pain.

I hope your experience is different if you’re expecting your 2nd (or 3rd!) baby, but holy crap it hurt!

It actually took more than 3 days for the pain to completely subside.  The contractions felt exactly like they did during labor only my body wasn’t pushing.

If you can deliver a baby, you can do anything.  Just remember that this time, the pain might not go away completely just because the baby is finally here!

You Might React Differently – and So Will Your Spouse

With our first son, my husband cried the moment he saw him.  He worried when I was really shaky immediately after delivery. Our doula reassured him that this was normal and it subsided pretty quickly.

The second time, we both knew what to expect.  We were elated to meet our son, but neither of us cried.  We just smiled and said to each other “another boy!”  

I love the men in my life, but if you met my husband and his dare devil twin of a son, you’d know that what I’m in for is no easy road!

All joking aside, we enjoyed every second of meeting our new baby and dreaming about who he’d become. 

My husband took the reins this time and did skin to skin while I got cleaned up and took a few moments to process the fact that I just had our baby!

Instead of becoming an instant family, your new baby is fitting into the family you’ve already created. 

It’s wonderful, but in a different way.  Really, it’s even better because you already know how amazing it is to be a parent, so you force yourself to take in the experience even more. 

Plus, you know just how quick it goes.  This tiny person will be running around before you know it.


Have you already delivered your second (or third) baby?  What were the key differences between the two experiences for you?  What advice do you have to prepare moms and dads for their second little one?  Let me know in the comments!

second baby labor second babysecond labor differences


Monday 31st of July 2017

Thanks for sharing! Your stories are all reassuring. I’m nearly 34 weeks with my second and terrified! I had a really great experience with #1 and I have complete faith that I can birth naturally again. But I’ve been worried (for no good reason) about preterm labor. I thought maybe my muscles are too weak a second time and won’t be able to hold my baby inside. I get nervous all the time about every possible symptom that could be the beginning of labor. I don’t rest enough and I’m terrified of the major changes in our family life and how each family member will cope. I lost my mom a little over a year ago and so I’m clearly more emotional and sensitive this time. But I also feel a little like I lost my core strength. And then since I’m a lot more stressed this pregnancy, I begin to doubt that my second labor will be as easy as the first.

Geetika Gupta Demra

Sunday 29th of July 2018

Plz share how was the experience?


Thursday 1st of June 2017

Yes Labour #2 was very different. 1st time it was 40 hours in total and 24 hours in hospital. second time just 12 hours in total with 2.5 hours in hospital!! and the Pain was soo different, 1st time it was like a wave coming from lower back to pelvic area which was a tightning sensation as well and suddenly releasing! second was back labour!


Thursday 1st of June 2017

Hi Mihiri! I feel your pain. I had back labor both times but it was way worse with the second. I'm hoping every labor is as fast as my first two!


Sunday 29th of January 2017

Interesting that the author considers an induction and Pitocin-augmented birth "natural".


Sunday 29th of January 2017

Hi Kait! Where did you see induction and Pitocin augmented? I've never had either and I'm the author ;-) Thanks for stopping by!


Friday 9th of September 2016

I mean this in the absolute nicest way ... You're lows in your birth storys sound like a dream! I would have killed for those to even be some high moments of mine lol! I feel like women should be able to give birth for eachother and trade parts they aren't good at for ones they are! My friend has super easy labors but has terrible pregnancies. I was polar opposite. Hopefully science will catch up soon and allow us to trade off tasks! Lol congrats on your baby number two!

Sincerely the mama still recovering from birth number 1.. A year and a half later! Lol


Sunday 16th of October 2016

Payton, I had an absolutely miserable pregnancy, double contractions during delivery that had my doctor amazed at how much pain I was experiencing, post-birth pains for a week even though it was my first and only pregnancy, a postpartum blood clot in my leg that made it so I couldn't walk while holding my baby for a month and 6 months of treatment, a "colicky" baby who cried all the time and could never sleep much who has turned out to have reflux, food allergies, and some other digestive issues we're still working on, so even though she's a year old she still can't sleep through the night. So.... I'm just saying, at least you got some part that was easy instead of every step of the way being extra hard ;)


Wednesday 31st of August 2016

My third baby was born on the day you posted this article! The main thing that was different with all of my pregnancies is that each time I labored much more quickly. With the first, he was 10 days late, and I messed around for a week, then labored off and on all day, finally pushing for an hour and a half. The second it was 3 days from water breaking to delivery, but actual hard labor for 3 hours, and I pushed her out in 3 pushes. With my last daughter, my water broke the night before, and she was born after only an hour or two of painful contractions, and I pushed her out in about 2 pushes.


Wednesday 7th of September 2016

Hi Susan, Congratulations on your new baby! That's so exciting! I really hope my story ends up like yours and that my future labors are faster. We're hoping to have two more babies, so I'll keep you posted :-)

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