I remember feeling nervous about just how much weight I'd put on during pregnancy, and how long it would take me to lose it. But I didn't worry out of vanity (OK, there was a little vanity), so much as from a sense that my body was totally out of control, shifting and changing and running rampant on me. After months spent losing the weight I put on in the first go-round, I wondered what it would be like if I were to do it all over again. Do you gain more weight with a second pregnancy? How resilient is your body's shape?
According to a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, you're likely to gain the same amount of weight in your second pregnancy as you did the first time. And that holds true if you gained too much, too little, or the Goldilocks amount — with one major exception. If you didn't shed the extra pounds between pregnancies, you'll gain more weight in total, because you're beginning pregnancy at a higher starting point, Dr. Kathleen M. Rustici of Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver, Colorado, tells Romper in an interview. Still, weight is otherwise consistent across pregnancies, she observes. "As long as women lost their weight from their first pregnancies, it’s going to be pretty linear and follow along that same trajectory."
While you probably won't gain more weight than you did with baby number one, you might feel a whole lot bigger. In the first pregnancy, muscles and ligaments haven't stretched out yet, but the second time, they're primed and ready to pop. "So it’s very common for women to come in at 12, 13, 14 weeks and say, 'My goodness, you can already tell I'm pregnant! I haven’t told my boss yet. Are you sure it’s not twins?'" Rustici says.
In fact, you look and feel bigger sooner for purely anatomical reasons that have nothing to do with actual weight gain. According to Rustici, veteran pregnant people also tend to feel fetal movement earlier, probably because they know what to expect. For the same reasons, second-timers are also more likely to recognize Braxton Hicks, she notes.
What about round ligament pain? If you're already stretched out and feeling bigger than the first time, doesn't it stand to reason your belly won't ache so much? Unfortunately, there will be no fewer growing pain for your troubles, says Rustici — in fact, round ligament pain might even be a little bit worse. (A woman quoted on The Bump described second-time round ligament pain as "stabbier.") The reason? "Those ligaments and abdominal wall musculature, all of that is stretched out and things are just a little floppier," observes Rustici. "In fact, you can see a little bit more round ligament pain earlier."
But it's not all bad news. In their second pregnancies, women report less anxiety and feel more knowledgeable about their bodies, according to Rustici. She also has fewer birth plan conversations with second-time moms. "There's a lot less stress and anxiety over, 'How do I control this process?'" Rustici says.
Instead, women worry more about how to incorporate a new baby into their family, and how to manage the demands of a toddler and a newborn all at once. "It’s a hard transition, adding another kiddo to the family, and a lot of what I do in second pregnancies is helping women prepare for that," she says.
A second baby is a big deal, and a huge change. On the bright side, there's no need to worry on top of everything else that your pregnancy weight gain will be radically different. Especially if you start with a healthy body mass index, you can expect to gain the same amount you did the first time — just be prepared to look and feel bigger much sooner.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.