You may be feeling happy and relaxed about labour if you’ve had a positive birth experience before. You may be looking forward to your next labour and excited about completing your birth plan.

If you didn’t have a good experience last time, the thought of another labour might make you feel anxious or scared. Women who’ve had difficult labours and births can carry trauma from their previous experiences, which makes pregnancy and making a birth plan much more difficult.

If you’ve previously had a very long and difficult labour, it’s completely natural to be worried about your next labour. Equally, if your last labour was very fast, you might have felt shocked and scared, and you might struggle with these feelings again when thinking about your next birth.

Some women who’ve had really difficult births still feel positive about their birth experience, whereas some women who’ve had “textbook” births can feel shocked and traumatised by some aspect of their birth. Your feelings about your previous birth experience are not dependent on anyone else’s opinion of how your birth went. Don’t be afraid to talk to your midwife about your previous experiences and how they’ve made you feel.

For lots of women, the loss of control is one of the most difficult things about labour and birth. There are things you can do to regain a feeling of control:

  • Complete a birth plan

  • Discuss your plan, your previous birth and your worries with your midwife or consultant

  • Ask for more specialist emotional support if you are really struggling

  • Ask for a referral to the Birth Choices clinic at University Hospitals Dorset

What are your options?

You will have plenty of options around a second or subsequent birth. As long as:

  • You are healthy

  • There are no concerns about this pregnancy or your baby

  • You are more than 36 weeks

  • You had no complications in previous pregnancies and labours

  • You are only having one baby this time

You can choose to have your baby:

However, you will be advised to have your baby at either University Hospitals Dorset or Dorset County Hospital if:

  • You have health problems, such as epilepsy, diabetes, or high blood pressure

  • You develop pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia or obstetric cholestasis

  • There are concerns about your baby, such as reduced growth

  • You are having twins or more

Now for the good news: the majority of second and subsequent labours are much quicker than the first! This only applies if you have had a previous vaginal birth, as it’s this process that makes subsequent labours generally quicker and easier.

This doesn’t apply if you have only had a caesarean in the past, but try not to worry about this. 75% of women who needed a planned caesarean (for reasons such as breech presentation) in their first pregnancy are able to have a successful vaginal birth in their next pregnancy. Find out more about vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC).

In second and subsequent labours, your contractions often become stronger much more quickly, and are generally much shorter too. The second stage of labour (pushing and birthing your baby) is also generally shorter. Women who have had difficult first labours often say they are amazed by how quickly everything happened in their second labour.

Planning childcare for when you are in labour is important, and it’s best to do this far in advance of your due date. If you are having a homebirth, you might want your children to be there. If you are going into hospital, it’s a good idea to have a rota for 24-hour care.

Make sure that your transport is reliable and ready, like checking that your car is filled up with petrol. An extra ten minutes getting fuel can be too long second time around! If you plan to get a taxi, check with local firms that they are willing to transport women in labour.

If you feel you need more support with issues around your birth, talk to your team midwife or consultant. You can request referral to the Birth Choices Clinic at University Hospitals Dorset in Poole if you are unsure or concerned about any aspects of your birth. If you are planning a birth at Dorset County Hospital and feel you need to discuss your previous birth experience with a midwife, please ring 01305 254223.