Why You May Show Earlier in Your Second Pregnancy

pregnant woman

 MoMo Productions / Getty Images

One of the most exciting times in pregnancy is when you start to “show.” You finally have some tangible evidence of the little one growing inside you...as well as a good reason for that queasy stomach, those outlandish food aversions, and random aches and pains. 

But many pregnant people are surprised to find that their baby bump makes an appearance a bit earlier in their second pregnancy—sometimes several weeks earlier than before!

If this is happening to you, you are far from alone. Showing earlier during a second or subsequent pregnancy is common and normal.

Still, you may be wondering when you can expect it to happen, why this happens, and if it ever indicates a medical issue worth investigating.

When Do You Usually Begin to Show During Your Second Pregnancy?

“I remember I was only 10 weeks pregnant when a friend ran up to me in Whole Foods and yelled, ‘congratulations!’” recounts Amy Wruble, a mom of two from Los Angeles. “That was a tough one to explain to my four-year-old who didn’t know yet that she was becoming a big sister!”

Although 10 weeks is certainly on the early side in terms of showing, the truth is, there are no hard and fast rules on when you might begin to show during a second pregnancy, explains Dr. Lynn L. Simpson, OB/GYN, and Chief of the Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) division and Hillary Rodham Clinton Professor of Women's Health at  Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

Lynn L. Simpson, OB/GYN

Every woman is different and there are many factors that determine how early a woman shows that she is pregnant. In general, the uterus expands beyond the pelvis at about 14 weeks gestation so most women do start to show beyond the first trimester.

— Lynn L. Simpson, OB/GYN

Simpson contends that there is a range, but that typically, pregnant people tend to show between 14-24 weeks in second and subsequent pregnancies. Again, though, showing earlier or later is perfectly common, too.

Why Do Some Pregnant People Show Earlier During Their Second Pregnancy?

Dr. Kelly Culwell (AKA, "Dr. Lady Doctor"), an OB/GYN and women’s health expert, says that the variation in terms of when pregnant people show in their second pregnancies likely has to do with the tone of the abdominal muscles, which tend to weaken after a first pregnancy.

Or, as Jennifer Weedon Palazzo, mom of two from Massachusetts, and one of the founders of Mom Cave, put it, “After being stretched out from my first pregnancy, my abs were like, ‘Oh, we remember this! Spread out, guys!’” 

All jokes aside, while the looseness of the abdominal muscles after pregnancy is common, it is sometimes a sign of condition called diastasis recti.

“Once the abdominal muscles have been stretched due to pregnancy, they are a little more ‘relaxed’ which may cause the ‘bump’ to appear sooner in the pregnancy,” explains Dr. Culwell. “This would certainly be more likely in women with diastasis recti.”

Dr. Simpson agrees. “Diastasis recti or separation of the abdominal rectus muscles is a potential complication of pregnancy and may also contribute to showing earlier in subsequent pregnancies,” she says.

Although most cases of diastasis recti resolve on their own after pregnancy, about one-third of pregnant people will still have a diastasis recti one year after giving birth. In addition to showing early during a second pregnancy, diastasis recti can lead to leaking pee, back pain, and prolapse. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and suspect that a diastasis recti is causing them, you should speak to your healthcare provider or a pelvic floor therapist.

Dr. Simpson explained that in addition to diastasis recti, showing earlier during a second or subsequent pregnancy might also be caused by:

  • Multiple gestations (a parent carrying more than one baby will show earlier)
  • Pregnancies that are closely spaced
  • The fact that your “hormonal influence” might be more pronounced after your first pregnancy
  • Your progesterone levels, which may “relax smooth muscles and may also have some impact on skeletal muscle which may contribute to laxity of the abdominal wall”

Is There Anything to Be Concerned About If You Are Showing Early in Your Pregnancy? 

If you are showing on the very early side—earlier than 14 weeks, for example—you may feel concerned that something is wrong with you or your pregnancy.

Thankfully, there is likely nothing wrong with you! Both Dr. Simpson and Dr. Culwell assured that showing early during a second pregnancy is normal, and rarely a sign of a medical issue.

In fact, showing early during any of your pregnancies (not just the second one), isn’t something to be concerned about, says Dr. Culwell, who showed on the very early side during her first pregnancy.

“When I was in my first pregnancy, co-workers started asking me if I was pregnant around 9 weeks!” she recalls. “I only had one pregnancy—who knows how early I might have started showing in a second one!”

“As long as you are getting regular prenatal care and no concerns have been raised by your healthcare provider, there is almost certainly nothing to be concerned about,” Dr. Culwell says.

Dr. Simpson echoes these sentiments, agreeing that showing early during a pregnancy isn’t generally something to worry about. However, if you are showing on the very early side, you might want to visit your healthcare provider, as you may be in for a surprise.

“In general, showing early is nothing to be concerned about—although it may be a marker for a multiple gestation, so getting an early ultrasound to determine the number of babies present might be a good idea!” says Dr. Simpson.

What Else Is Different About Pregnancy the Second Time?

Sporting a baby bump ahead of schedule isn’t the only difference between a first and second pregnancy. Besides the fact that you are now chasing around another child, and are probably at least somewhat sleep deprived (maybe A LOT sleep deprived), you will likely find that your second pregnancy is different in quite a few noticeable ways.

“In addition to showing sooner, many women feel more pelvic pressure in subsequent pregnancies and complain of carrying lower than their first pregnancy,” says Dr. Simpson. “This is also likely due to the effects of a prior pregnancy on pelvic muscles and supporting tissues and perhaps the effects of progesterone on muscle tone.”

Other differences you might notice:

  • You may experience more lower back pain
  • You may have more frequent Braxton Hicks contractions
  • You may notice your baby’s first movement earlier
  • You may experience less pronounced breast changes (enlargement and sensitivity)
  • You may have a quicker labor
  • After birth, you may have more intense “afterpains”

A Word From Verywell 

After you get over the initial surprise, showing earlier during your second pregnancy is usually nothing more than a good excuse to whip out those loose, comfy maternity clothes earlier than planned.

Some pregnant people also feel uncomfortable about the body changes that are happening, and wonder if they will end up gaining more weight than they feel comfortable with, or will end up having more loose abdominal skin then they would like. Try to keep in mind that your body changing is healthy, normal, and part of the process of welcoming your sweet child into the world. There will be a chance to get back in shape after your baby is born.

As always, if you are unsure about the changes that are happening to your body during pregnancy, or if your instincts tell you something is wrong, you shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to your medical provider.

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