Second Pregnancy Labor Differences You NEED To Know

Second Pregnancy Labor Differences You NEED To Know

Will there be any MAJOR second pregnancy labor differences? You may have already noticed interesting second pregnancy differences like strange new cravings, things not-fitting SO much faster or pain in places you never thought possible. You may have even come to the conclusion that the ”been there, done that’ idea when preparing for baby number 2 has set you up for some serious disappointment.

PLUS, you’ve heard WAY TOO MANY crazy second pregnancy labor and delivery stories by now. PRIME example: conveniently, right after I found out I was pregnant with baby number 2, I saw Seth Meyer’s story of his wife giving birth to their second baby in the hotel lobby:

Now, are you thinking what I’m thinking? Are we giving birth on the PORCH then?!

The question must be asked: will second pregnancy labor and delivery be similar to the first at all? AND more importantly, what can you expect this time around in the delivery room?



Second Pregnancy Labor Differences You NEED To Know

1. How Long Is The Average Labor For A Second Pregnancy?

Just like you may have guessed, usually, the average labor for your second pregnancy is shorter. But not every part of your labor will be shorter.

When contractions begin, this is called Stage 1, Early Labor. This timeframe unfortunately still varies with your second pregnancy, lasting from hours to days. You may also have MORE Braxton Hicks and contractions well before your actual delivery day. (With my first pregnancy I had ZERO contractions beforehand and with my second, I had them for TWO weeks with several we-may-have-to-rush-to-the-hospital moments.)

Stage 1, Active Labor begins when you are dilated around 4 – 6 cms (the time hospitals usually admit you (when you are dialed 4 cms and Googled the whole 5-1-1 thing because how can anyone remember that anyway?) and before your baby is delivered.

Typically, active labor is reduced by about a third with your second pregnancy. In my case, the timeframe of labor for my second baby was to the hour EXACTLY the same as the first! So, it does vary.

2. Is Labor Easier With The Second Baby?

While there is no guarantee, typically your second labor is more predictable, shorter and thus a little less complicated and easier. Now (after having experienced labor and delivery already), you have a sort of barometer to let you know what to expect and your individual cadence from that first initial contraction to the last.

First-time moms don’t know if their bodies will even be up for vaginal delivery or how their individual bodies will respond to labor (at what time the uterus contracts to dilate the cervix and the timing till the baby comes out) but baby number two will be very similar to the first.

The best time for a birth plan is for baby number two. Now that you know how your body responded to labor the first time around (and with a second baby it will be about the same), you can plan accordingly.

Additionally, if you were apprehensive about trying a home birth or a birthing center for baby number one, if you had a straight-forward and safe birth for your first baby, you can now do a home birth with more peace of mind. But do keep in mind, there is no 100% guarantee that your labor will be easier or less complicated than your first.

Create A Labor Plan, Get A Much-Needed Refresher And Get A More In-Depth Look At What To Expect With Baby Number Two

I really wanted a refresher prenatal course during my second pregnancy, because who remembers how many pee and poo diapers a newborn should have? Several friends recommended this AH-mazing class run by RN Hilary Erickson (There’s also a FREE version here). She’s been a labor and delivery nurse for over 16 years and has taught prenatal classes regularly.

If only I had known to take her class for baby number 1! I’d have been MUCH more prepared. You can take the class at your own pace, from the comfort of your OWN home (at whatever time you want to take it) and you’ll receive a fantastic prenatal education from a passionate, experienced and wonderful mommy and nurse. I also guarantee you’ll LOVE her emails and there’s a Facebook support group!



3. Will Postpartum Recovery Be Easier?

*Pausing while I grit my teeth here a bit.*
Here we go…the honest truth: more than likely that’s a GIGANTIC NO.

I could write several blog posts on HOW DIFFERENT postpartum recovery and healing after birth was after the second pregnancy. I was shocked how much more difficult it was the second time. It was far more sleepless (due to caring for two children) and MUCH harder on my body.

That said, for baby number two I made SURE I had a postpartum kit ready. And I can’t tell you how INCREDIBLY glad I was to have this. It was a life savor times a million. I used this Postpartum Amazon List, I had created for baby number one. It’s now Cape & Apron’s top list. Below, I’ve included helpful descriptions for the very best postpartum necessities.

Absolutely necessary items for a speedy and MUCH more comfortable postpartum recovery:

  • Remember that sucky cheapo peri bottle the hospital gave you the first time around? Now, there is a MUCH better, brilliant alternative. Fridababy makes a peri-bottle called the Fridget with a nozzle specifically designed to be held upside down, giving you much more control with each use. So throw the one you get from the hospital in the diaper bag and use this one in your main bathroom.
  • Absolute Postpartum staple: giant pads. The hospital may give you some but you also (like me) may not have been madly in love with them. Buy one pack of 20 Always Maxi (overnight extra heavy flow with wings). This pad is #1 everywhere for the BEST postpartum pad. Always Maxi Overnights are the BEST heavy pads I used. However, I personally dislike wings and pads that go up my butt. So, when I could, I would cut off the wings. Since then, I’ve found Natracare extra heavy flow pads. They are very similar to the hospital pads I received (it seem hospitals give out various types). With a pack of 10 for around $5, they are worth trying to test your individual preference.
    Another alternative to consider based upon your preference (some hospitals seem to give out these as well): Curity Maternity Pad Heavy
  • As SOON AS POSSIBLE though, I downgraded my pad to Stayfree Maxi Regular Pads because I not only cut the wings off of the Always Maxi Overnights, I started to cut them in half! It felt almost impossible to find a pad that wasn’t extra long without wings with great absorbency. Plus, I hated picking those extra long pads out of my butt crack. Leggings are FANTASTIC postpartum, especially these puppies (looove them), BUT boy do they help wedge those sticky long plastic mini diapers up your ass. Anyway, Stayfree Maxis were the BEST (no DIY hack job included like the Always Maxi Overnights). I ended up with four or five different bags of pads before I landed on Stayfree! In the end, I used 4 bags total of the Stayfree Maxi Regular Pads for my postpartum recovery. These were the best overall pads I used.
    Another alternative to consider based upon your preference: Always Always Maxi Pads 24ct Regular Non-Wing Unscented
  • The postpartum pad finale: a liner that’s not paper thin. Buy one box of Carefree Original pads. I tried out Always Thin Daily Liners but they are paper thin and would seem to be better for incontinence. You may have used this little pink box in your “Hello God, It’s Me Margeret” days but they are still fantastic. Carefree does make a new pad called “Acti-Fresh.” I haven’t tried them personally, but they seem to be a good postpartum pad finale as well. There’s this weird balance with that final liner. A super duper paper thin one would be great, but you’ll need something just thick enough for that final (and unpredictable) spotting.
  • Then there’s those amazing disposable underwear the hospital gives you. Or they may give you none. Save yourself the trouble and up your postpartum mesh panty game by buying your own postpartum maternity (post-surgical) disposable underwear. Another plus: the quality is better.
  • Our hospital provided Tucks Medicated Healing Pads to place directly on the maxi pad for relief. If you haven’t tried them, you’re missing out on some major pain releif, additional comfort and speedy recovery help. They are little round (3″) pads with witch hazel and I cannot tell you how much they relieved the burning and itching. Ah-mazing. However, after my second pregnancy labor the very SAME hospital did not provide these. So glad I bought them for the postpartum kit for the recovery after the second baby!
    Another bonus: there’s enough alcohol content in these bad boys to prevent freezing, which means you can pop some in a freezer bag and add them to your freezer. YUSSS.
  • When you want to graduate into actual underwear (and ditch the diaper feel) I would advise having a pack of ridiculously comfortable underwear on hand like these boy short boxer brief panties. Postpartum, I was thanking God that I had bought these. I LOVED them! I ended up ordering an additional set. A heads up: alternative prints ended up at my door, some which were not as cute but most of them were perfect. These are the most comfortable underwear I’ve owned, so they are WELL worth an alternate print. 
  • Now, I know those DIY “padsicles” are like all the rage but I’ve been there, done that and they were TERRIBLE (in my personal experience). If I wanted to freezer burn my painfully injured vagina then padsicles would definitely be the way to go. On the other hand, when I wanted actual pain relief and comfort, these medicated cooling pads (like they have at the hospital) were MUCH better!
  • When you leave the hospital, chances are you will receive Dermoplast Pain Relieving Spray. The nurse told me: “Never forget to use this each and every time you go to the bathroom.” The problem is, that’s a lot of spraying so we had to go out and find two additional cans. If you tried it with your first baby, you know how awesome this stuff is! Another similar spray gaining momentum is Earth Mama Herbal Perineal Spray.
    Edit: I purchased one of each (Dermoplast & Earth Mama) for postpartum after the second pregnancy. I liked how I wasn’t worried about my toddler getting into the postpartum basket with Earth Mama (the Dermoplast children warning is a little concerning). And the Earth Mama spray smells AMAZING and natural. BUT, the Dermoplast spray does have a cooling feel that is lifesaving. Try buying one of each and see what you like best because you’ll likely end up using up everything.
  • Prepare to have sitz baths. They are SUPER healing and fantastic for postpartum recovery. Buy a simple plastic cover that sits neatly over your toilet like this top Amazon sitz bath by Yunga Tart and use a high-quality Epsom salt made specifically for these types of baths like Epsoak Epsom Salt (which is Amazon’s #1 choice). I linked the large bag because sitz baths are usually recommended 2-3 times a day! That’s a lot of Epsom salt.

Check out “The Ultimate Postpartum Recovery List” on Amazon here


4. Do You Dilate Faster With The Second Pregnancy?

Yes. The key factor: Braxton Hicks. Even though Braxton Hicks contractions are not technically “real labor”, they can cause your cervix to dilate. Second-time mommies usually experience more Braxton Hicks contractions. So by the time those real it’s-time-for-labor contractions come and you’re rushing to the hospital, typically, the cervix is much more dilated.

5. Are Second Babies Early Or Late?

You are more likely to deliver early with your second baby. You can also expect labor to start early with baby number 2. Since all your baby delivering muscles have done the deed already, you are much more likely to deliver early with baby number two. However, this is not always the case! Wouldn’t it be nice if we had an EXACT date and time for each of our deliveries?

Our first was born 5 days early, our second was born the day AFTER the due date. It seems with every “more than likely” fact regarding second pregnancy labor differences, our situation was just the opposite.

And while we are on that topic, while I was preparing for baby number two, going over this list was VERY helpful. Coincidently, it is also one of Cape & Apron’s most visited posts: How To Prepare Your Home For A Newborn: The Only checklist You’ll Need To Prepare For Baby

6. Is Second Time Labor Faster Than The First?

Typically. Usually, your second labor will be a little faster than the first from beginning to end. In addition, the pushing phase of active labor will be much quicker. I pushed for an hour and forty-five minutes with our first baby. For our second labor, I pushed for twenty minutes!

Second-time moms are also MUCH more relaxed during the labor and delivery process. I know I was! The first time around, I was petrified. Relaxing during labor makes a HUGE difference. When your state of mind is better and not as stressed, you are working with your body instead of against it. This quickens the process. (Source)

7. Are Second Babies Usually Bigger?

Statistically speaking, second babies are generally bigger. On average, .5 ounces bigger (which isn’t much). (Source)

But this isn’t always the case. Our second was smaller! But only by 2 ounces. Generally, you can expect about the same sized baby with your second pregnancy.

8. When Should I Go To The Hospital With Contractions For My Second Pregnancy?

Ask your doctor or OB. Mine told me that second babies typically come quicker after contractions have started. She even told me to skip the 5-1-1 and just to come in when I had contractions.

But I had constant, painful contractions for TWO WEEKS before the delivery day! And with our first, I had consistent contractions for nine hours before I was admitted into the hospital. So I wasn’t terribly worried, except when people told me stories like Seth Meyer! But your doctor will know what’s best for you.

9. Is Labor less painful The second time?

So, is second time labor easier? Unfortunately, there is no black and white answer. I wish I could even give you a “typically, yes.” While labor is usually shorter, that doesn’t mean it’s any easier. For some women, the pain is less and for others, it’s worse.

My second pregnancy labor and delivery was easier. So, there is hope!

I was admitted right away (thank goodness), likely because it was the second time around. No walking the hospital hallways for hours, memorizing boring Western artwork (which was our experience with baby number one). The epidural was in before the most painful of the contractions (where I was violently throwing up the first time around!). Overall it was a MUCH easier and less painful, smooth process.

10. Will Labor Signs Be Different With The Second Baby?

Second pregnancy labor signs may indeed be different. Braxton Hicks are MUCH more common with a second pregnancy. So while these contractions are considered false labor, they do help further cervix dilation. This said, some women ignore contractions during the end of their second pregnancy due to the amount of Braxton Hicks and are more likely to rush to the hospital! I would have been in the same boat if I hadn’t known the difference and paid careful attention.

Keep in mind, Braxton Hicks are inconsistent and not as painful as labor contractions. If you are having painful, consistent contractions, genuine labor is likely beginning. My advice: download a super simple contraction timer app on your phone (you literally just push a start/stop button and it records everything for you: the length, time in-between and how long). Be on the safe side, have the hospital OB-GYN number (or whatever number your doctor tells you to call when having contractions) and call if in doubt.


The “been there done that” odds may ever be in your favor. With second pregnancy labor and delivery, we all WISH there were some way to predict the exact date and time. However, statistically, we can take a look at how long average labor is for second pregnancies, if the labor is generally easier if second babies are early or late if dilation comes more quickly, and overall get a good idea what to expect.

All in all, the second time around should be shorter and more predictable. Most importantly, it’s best to prepare for your individual labor (based upon your first labor and delivery experience) as well as advice from your doctor instead of expecting statistical averages. Every labor is different. Even your first to your second! Congrats on the new little human <3!

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