A second child can scupper your career hopes.

While three-quarters of women return to at least part-time work after their first baby, half give up completely once they have two young children.

They lack the energy to cope with a job and often don't have the cash to afford childcare.

The problem is often worse for women who have their babies close together, says a study from the University of Kent.

"The reality for many women with two small children means very little or no work," the research concluded.

All I can say is: "And the rest . . ."

I can take the study a step further and, I'm sure most women will back me up on this, say that the reality of having a second child means little or no anything.

It's not just work that has to be curtailed, my own working hours have been halved since baby number two.

In fact, everything goes to pot.

Your figure: With a few brisk walks and the odd afternoon down the gym, you may manage to slip into that pre-pregnancy dress just a few weeks after the birth of your first child.

You might even look passable in a swimsuit.

Second baby leaves you handing your entire wardrobe over to the charity shop because nothing bar your dressing gown will fit any more.

And your stomach only becomes passable with a quarter-mile detour.

It's bizarre, because you're on the go virtually 20 hours a day and end up abandoning most of your own meals, yet you look like a couch potato who follows an all-lard eating plan.

Finances: After handing your much-loved size eight, ten and 12 clothes to the charity shop, you turn to it for your new wardrobe or rather, "nearly new," because that's all you will be able to afford now you've got two bottomless tummies to fill.

And, although you feel terrible every time you do it, you lose count of the number of times you raid your children's money boxes.

Sex life: Young children are the world's most effective form of contraception.

Even if, on the rare occasion you've got the energy and manage to get beyond a quick cuddle, someone will toddle into the room to spoil your fun.

Social life: After a dawn- to- dusk day of running around after two demanding little ones, the very thought of going out after 5pm other than to Tesco to replenish your kitchen cupboards (a daily requirement that used to be necessary once a week), loses its appeal.

And if you do go out, getting ready involves a two minute fumble with a mascara wand, desperately trying to put together an outfit from your new "bring and buy" collection and a desire to be home far earlier than Cinderella.

Friends: Yes, many of those people you once called bosom buddies, those singletons who loved to come to your house for a laugh, a meal, a drink and a good time, realise it isn't all that great now there are sticky children to feed, bath and put to bed.

And who wants to spend an evening with weary adults who want to go to bed before the nine o'clock watershed?

Those so-called pals who thought one child was bad enough suddenly limit their friendship to Christmas cards.

Yes, you lose a lot when you have a second child.Your whole identity is at risk of disappearing. But you gain a lot too.

And if you have them close together, you've created a playmate for child number one.

So, although extremely hard at first, don't despair that second child may just help you get your life back.