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Does labor change from birth to birth?

A lot of things are easier the second time around – after all, practice makes perfect, right? But pregnancy, labor, and delivery are such singular experiences that it’s less clear whether having given birth before prepares you for labor and delivery in the future.

While many women who have given birth before feel more prepared for labor and delivery during following pregnancies, the feeling can go both ways. Women who experienced difficult first deliveries may worry more during their future pregnancies, since they have a more detailed idea of what they might not want from a future birth experience. Even bad experiences can be useful for a sense of control during future pregnancies, though. Having a better idea of what to expect means having a better idea of what questions to ask, and a better idea of what to brace for.

Just like every woman is different, though, and every baby is different, every labor and delivery has its own chance to be completely unique. Some moms know exactly what to expect from previous pregnancies, and are proved right, while others have radically different deliveries every time. That said, there are a few trends for changes between a first pregnancy and the ones that come after that you’re more likely to notice than not.

  • The domino effect: Second and other subsequent pregnancies tend to be more tiring not because pregnancy is asking anything more from your body, but because either you’re a bit older or, if you’re not too much older, you might be tired out from chasing after a small child during pregnancy.
  • The earlier bird: A couple of different things might happen earlier on in a repeat pregnancy. Many women feel they start to show earlier in a second pregnancy, which may be because their abdominal muscles are already stretched from a previous pregnancy, and so stretch out faster. It’s also common to notice the baby’s movements earlier, since experienced moms know what that feels like already.
  • The false alarm: In second or further pregnancies, moms may notice Braxton-Hicks, or false labor contractions, more often, or starting earlier than in a first pregnancy.
  • The speed of light: Generally, first pregnancies tend to end in noticeably longer labor, so future deliveries often go much faster.
None of this means that second-time moms have it easy – it’s impossible to predict how any specific labor or delivery is going to go. Second-time moms do have experience on their side, though, and that’s an advantage there’s only one way to get.

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