While nothing in life is certain, there's a good chance that your second labor will differ from your first in a number of ways. Both you and your uterus have been down this road before, so you know -- or think you know -- what to expect when labor starts. But second-time moms often have different labor experience than first-time moms -- easier in some ways and harder in others.
Most women having their second baby have more Braxton-Hicks contractions, the warm-up or practice contractions that "tone up" the uterus so it's ready for real labor contractions, according to the Parents website. Because you experience so many more Braxton-Hicks contraction in the late months of pregnancy, you may ignore the signs that say this is the real thing until contractions become strong enough that you need to get to the hospital --and fast -- or risk delivering in the minivan.
Early loss of Mucus Plug
Many second-time moms lose the mucus plug, the thick mucus that blocks bacteria from entering the uterus and possibly affecting the baby, before labor begins. This is because the cervix begins to efface, or thin, and dilate earlier in a second pregnancy, because of all those Braxton-Hicks contractions and because the cervix, like muscles elsewhere on your body, is flabbier than it was before your first delivery, explains the Parents website. While you may not have lost your mucus plug until you were in the hospital with contractions with your first baby, you may lose your mucus plug a few days -- and sometimes even earlier -- before contractions actually start with the second pregnancy.
Labor usually proceeds much more quickly with the second baby, a fact that catches some women unawares. While your doctor may have told you to stay home for a few hours with the first baby once labor began, he'll probably have you hightail it into the hospital with the second as soon as it's clear you're in labor. The early stage of labor lasts 6.4 hours in first deliveries and 4.8 hours in subsequent labors. The active stage of labor, which starts when you reach 3 to 4 cm, lasts 4.6 hours in second and subsequent labors, as compared to 6.4 hours for the first, the UTHSCSA Family and Community Medicine Department states.
The second stage of labor, the pushing stage, may be extremely short in your second pregnancy. While the average pushing stage lasts 5 to 30 minutes in a multip, or woman who's given birth before, compared to 30 minutes to 3 hours in a primip, or first-time mom, according to the University of Illinois Medical School, some multips don't have to push at all before the baby appears. Of course, if your second baby is in an unusual position or is much bigger than the first, labor could be slower the second time.