Trying for another child
Your little bundle of joy is now toddling around the house, melting your heart with wet kisses. They may even now be going to school, looking so adorable with that little backpack.
Your partner and you may have begun discussing the possibility of having another child, but questions may swirl in your head as you talk about this. The common questions parents often ask are “Is this the right time?”, “Are we ready?”, and “How will my child react to a new baby?”.
The choice of whether to have another child, and when to do so, is very personal and unique for each couple. There is also no standard answer to these questions as it depends on many factors.
However, here’s a guide on some key factors a couple can consider when making a decision.
When is the right time?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends for couples to wait at least 18 months from the birth of the first child before trying to get pregnant. This time period allows the woman to restore needed vitamins and nutrients in her body, and to allow her reproductive organs to recover. A gap of less than 17 months increases the risk of the second baby being underweight and born prematurely. This risk is highest for babies conceived less than 6 months from the birth of a previous child. A gap of more than 5 years also increases the risk of the next baby being premature and underweight.
Some couples prefer to try for another child when the first child is older, so that the first child can better understand and communicate the impact of another child in his/her life. Other couples prefer smaller age gaps, so that their children will more likely to have common interests and have playmates in each other.
Another important consideration for most couples is their age and, as a consequence, their fertility. Although fertility rates for women generally decline by 35 years of age, some women are still able to get pregnant in their 40’s.
You would also need to consider if you are financially ready for another baby, and if you have the proper accommodations to handle a bigger family size. The right timing of when to try again is ultimately a decision by you and your partner.
What should I expect with the next pregnancy? Is it going to be easier?
You’ve probably heard contradicting advice when it comes to having a next baby. Some would say that having a second baby is much easier, since you are already a pro when it comes to taking care of a baby. You would already have experience with breastfeeding, bathing a newborn, diaper changes, and other tasks associated with infant care.
Others would say that having a second baby is going to be more difficult. You would have to attend to the needs, and demands, of your older child while pregnant, and subsequently after the new baby is born.
Most mothers would also tell you that every pregnancy is a unique experience.
Regardless of perspective, you may experience the following changes during your next pregnancy:
- Your baby bump will show sooner since your stomach muscles have already been stretched out.
- You may feel your baby move sooner, since you already know what it feels like.
- Labour and delivery may take less time, when compared to the first.
- Some studies also report that breast milk production will be easier for the second baby.
How can I prepare for the next baby?
Similar to the preparations for the first child, you should make sure that you are physically healthy and ready to be pregnant.
It is advised that women trying to get pregnant supplement eat a healthy balanced diet. They should also consider taking folic acid supplements daily up until the first trimester of pregnancy. The intake of 400 micrograms of folic acid can prevent birth defects, specifically neural tube defects.
Maintaining a healthy weight can improve your chances of getting pregnant and avoid complications in pregnancy and delivery. A body mass index that is either too high or too low may negatively affect your fertility and pregnancy. The recommended range? Staying within a body mass index range of 19 – 23kg/m2.
To improve one’s chances of getting pregnant, it is advisable to avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. It is also important to consult your doctor to make sure you have received all the recommended vaccines before you become pregnant.
Is it possible to have a normal delivery if I had a caesarean section before?
Vaginal birth after caesarean delivery, called “VBAC” may be possible.
There are many factors to consider when choosing between VBAC or having a repeat caesarean section. These factors include:
- Age of the mother
- Previous surgeries of the uterus
- Presence of pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia
- Type of caesarean section done in the first pregnancy
- Weight of the mother
Although up to 70% of women have successful VBACs, you should deliver your baby in an institution that can perform an emergency caesarean section in case it is needed.
It is advisable to discuss your options with your doctor during your prenatal check-ups so that you can prepare for your delivery.
If you have any questions or concerns on trying for your next child, it is best to consult your obstetrician.
Given that parents are probably going to have their hands full with a new baby in the family, they may want to consider asking for a helping hand. A family member could be asked to help out with childcare, or a housekeeper could be employed to help you with the household chores while you are busy taking care of the children.
It is also good to prepare all your baby gear. Since you have most equipment already at hand, there are fewer things you may need to buy. Make sure that your baby equipment, including strollers, cribs and car seats are in good working condition. It is probably a good idea to stock up on diapers, wipes, and other toiletries. Not having to go to nearby stores to buy supplies will save you precious time and energy when your new baby arrives.
It is also important to help your first child adjust to the idea of a new baby. Children react differently to the news of a new baby coming into the family. Some may be excited, but others may also be jealous or resent the new baby. Your child may feel more positively about a new baby when you include him in the preparations. Ask them for help in preparing the baby’s clothes and supplies. Talk to your child about their important new role as big brother or sister to help them become excited about the baby.
Most importantly, try to enjoy the process of welcoming the addition to the family together.
Article reviewed by Dr Lisa Chin, obstetrician and gynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital
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