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The first trimester of pregnancy is not a humbling experience; morning sickness and nausea can get anyone down. But when you reach your second trimester, it will get a bit better. The second trimester is generally the easiest, and a lot of women take advantage of this and begin to prepare for the arrival of their little one.
What Is Second Trimester?
With a total of nine months of pregnancy, the three trimesters involve three months each. The second trimester takes place from the fourth to sixth month of pregnancy, or in other words, the 2nd trimester weeks include week 13 to week 28. This is when most women begin to look pregnant as their belly starts getting bigger and those who had not yet made their pregnancy known to their friends and family, do so at this time.
Second Trimester Pregnancy Symptoms
Most women say goodbye to morning sickness in the second trimester of pregnancy, but expect the other symptoms from the first trimester to carry on in the second. Not only that, but there may be some new symptoms to look out for. Here are a few:
Even mundane activities such as walking to the kitchen may make you feel quite breathless. This is normal because as the uterus grows, it pushes into the diaphragm, which in turn pushes against your lungs, making it harder for the air to go in and out. If your breathlessness seems to be severe, or if you feel faint after activities, you should consult with your doctor.
2. Abdominal Aches
Your uterus is growing and stretching the ligaments surrounding it. This is why you may experience some discomfort in your abdominal area during the second trimester.
By around week twenty, you should be able to feel flutters of movement in your belly. This is something known as quickening and are the first delicate movements of your baby. Some women only experience this from their sixth month. If you begin to feel “blips” towards the end of your second trimester, don’t worry. Your baby just has the hiccups.
4. Emotional Changes
Your hormones are still in overdrive, but you are more likely to be more used to them now as you have had three months of experience already. You may find that you have a bit more control over your emotions now.
5. Back Pain
Your back is going to feel the pressure from all the weight you are carrying. It helps to use chairs that provide good back support. Wear comfortable shoes and do not try to carry anything heavy. When you sleep, lie down on your side and tuck a pillow between your legs.
The milky white discharge during pregnancy in the second trimester called Leukorrhea and it is experienced by women during pregnancy. Use a pad or panty liner to help keep things clean, but do not use a tampon as this may carry germs into the vagina.
7. Frequent Urination
Your first trimester probably involved many trips to the loo, but because your uterus will rise away from your pelvic cavity during the second trimester, you will be relieved to know that frequent urination during the second trimester will not be so strong. Enjoy the break though because your third trimester will send you running right back.
8. Bleeding Gums
Hormonal changes cause at least 50% of pregnant women to experience sore and sensitive gums as more blood rushes to the area. This will stop after you have your baby. In the meantime, switch to a toothbrush with soft bristles and be gentle while cleaning your teeth. Pregnant women who have gum diseases may be more prone to going into preterm labour and may even have a baby with low birth weight.
9. Congestion and Bleeding Nose
The mucous membranes that line your nose will start to swell and can lead to a stuffy nose. This may cause you to snore or your nose to bleed. Try steaming and other natural methods rather than using decongestants. If you experience nosebleeds, keep your head straight and apply a little pressure to the nostril, until the bleeding stops.
Almost every pregnant woman will experience headaches. It is one of the most common complaints. Get plenty of rest. You should not take any of the medications you usually do for headaches such as aspirin, but instead, consult your doctor about the medication that is safe for you to take during your pregnancy.
11. Constipation and Heartburn
During pregnancy, your body produces more of a hormone called “Progesterone” which relaxes some muscles such as the ones that move the food you have digested through the intestines and the ring muscle of your lower oesophagus which is what keeps the food and acids down in your stomach. Try eating smaller meals a day and include more fibre in your diet.
The swollen blue and purple veins around the anus are called varicose veins. These may enlarge during your pregnancy as there is increased pressure on them from your constantly growing uterus. To get relief from this, sit in a warm bath or ask your doctor to prescribe you some medication.
Your baby is very busy growing this trimester. Once the second trimester ends, you will have a 1 kg baby in your tummy. Your baby may even begin to kick you. Here is how your baby grows during the second trimester of your pregnancy:
1. Hair, Skin, and Nails
Your baby’s first hair will begin to grow at around 15 weeks and his eyelashes and eyebrows during week 22. Your baby’s skin will be covered in something resembling a fur coat called a lanugo. By week 19 your baby will be covered in a greasy layer of oil and dead skin cells called vernix caseosa. This will protect your baby from the amniotic acids in your stomach. This will be shed before your baby is born.
By week 22 your baby will be starting to experience smell. His eyes and ears will also be moving into the correct places and opening, meaning he is beginning to see and hear.
Your baby’s brain is developing fast, enabling him to use all of the senses that are being developed. By week 23 his little brain will help him to blink.
Week 17 brings with it a more regulated heartbeat instead of a simple, spontaneous beating. At week 20, you should be able to hear it with a stethoscope. Capillaries begin to form to carry all that oxygenated blood throughout the body at 25 weeks.
5. Digestive System
At the beginning of your second trimester, your baby will have an already developed digestive system. During the second trimester, he will also learn to suck and swallow. He will even be able to taste the food that you eat through the amniotic fluid. This will determine his preferences later in life so be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Even though all the nutrition your baby gets is through your placenta, your baby’s waste system will be working well now too, and your baby will be peeing every 40 minutes.
While the second trimester is comparatively more comfortable than the first and third, there are some changes in your body that you should be aware of.
1. Hormonal Changes
Sudden changes in oestrogen and progesterone and the amount and function of many other hormones will cause various changes in your body that not only affect your mood but also help in the development of your foetus and will also impact the amount of physical exercise you can manage.
2. Sensory Changes
Your sight, taste, and smell will all change during pregnancy. Some women experience nearsightedness, blurred vision or may have irritation when wearing contact lenses. Women also experience changes in their taste buds as they begin to prefer more salty or sweet foods and have a higher tolerance for sour foods as well. Some women claim to be more sensitive to different scents during pregnancy.
3. Breast Changes
While the soreness may reduce, your breasts are going to get much bigger during your second trimester as they ready themselves to breastfeed your baby. It is wise to invest in a good supportive bra. During the second trimester, most women will begin to leak a thick yellowish substance, called colostrum, and this is the first milk produced by mothers.
4. Cervical Changes
During pregnancy and labour, the cervix (entry to the uterus) undergoes a few changes. The tissue of the cervix becomes thicker and firmer. A few weeks before you are due, the cervix walls become soft and may dilate slightly.
5. Skin Changes
Hormonal changes result in a “pregnant glow” for most women. This is because the change in hormone levels makes your face look flushed. Some women may go through facial skin darkening, which is known as “the mask of pregnancy”. A dark line forms down the middle of the abdomen, and the expanding skin causes stretch marks. These should all go back to normal once your baby is born.
6. Hair and Nail Changes
Your hair and nails also change. Some women experience hair loss during their pregnancies. Others experience the complete opposite and instead have much thicker hair that sometimes also grows in unwanted places.
With nails is a similar story, while some experience faster nail growth others find that their nails are more brittle.
7. Spider and Varicose Veins
Expect your blood circulation to increase as your body adjusts to send extra blood to your baby. All that extra blood flow cause small red veins, or spider veins, to show on your skin.
The pressure from your growing baby can cause the veins in your legs to become swollen, and they will appear to be purple or blue. These are called varicose veins. There is no real way of stopping these, but moving around more and avoiding being seated for long periods can make you more comfortable and can prevent them from becoming worse. These should all fade after you deliver.
With your morning sickness gone, your appetite should be growing, and while it is tempting to give in to all the cravings you have, try to stick to a balanced diet as you should not gain too much weight. The desired weight gain during the second trimester is 1 pound or ½ kg per week.
Tests and Scans
The three most common pregnancy problems are preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and hypertension. In order to rule out preeclampsia, the protein content in the urine will be checked. For gestational diabetes, glucose screening is usually performed at the end of the second trimester. You will need to go in for another blood test during weeks 15 and 20, during which time an ultrasound will be recommended in order to establish your baby’s due date.
Exercises to Try
Pregnancy can be extremely draining, but some exercise will help you a lot. Women who exercise during pregnancy will experience fewer backaches, a better body image and more energy. Here are a few exercises to try:
You will need to stand parallel to the back of a chair. Rest one arm of the back of the chair and give your feet hip-distance between them. Pull your belly in and bend your knees, lowering your body without bending your torso. Straighten your legs and repeat.
First, get on your knees, keep your wrists directly parallel to your shoulders, and then straighten your legs. Do not let your tummy hang or arch your back.
3. Curl and Lift
Sit on a chair and keep your back straight. You should have two weights with you, each about 5 to 7 pounds. Keep your arms bent and parallel to your thighs. Slowly lift your arms, keeping the elbows bent, until the weights are at shoulder height. Straighten and go back to starting position.
Second Trimester Diet
As your baby grows, it is expected that you should feel hungrier. It is important to keep a balanced diet so that your baby gets all the right nutrients he needs to grow.
Foods to Eat
- Choose different vegetables each day. Make sure your plate is always colourful. In the second trimester, including fruits in your diet is a must.
- Add starchy whole grain carbohydrates such as bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, and cereals.
- Include low-fat dairy, to ensure you are getting enough calcium.
- Eat foods rich in proteins, such as meat, fish, lentils, and eggs.
- Have some oily fish once a week for omega 3 which will help in your baby’s brain development.
- Instead of having snacks like chips and cookies, try having healthier snacks such as toast, fruits, sandwiches, etc.
Foods to Avoid
- Liver and liver products as they have toxic levels of vitamin A.
- Some fish like swordfish, shark, and marlin.
- Raw or undercooked meat, eggs, or fish.
- Unpasteurized cheese.
- Coffee, you can always switch to decaf if you really crave coffee.
The Second Trimester to Do List
It is always best to make two to-do lists; one dedicated to medical and health issues and the other dedicated to other logistics. Here we have some suggestions to help you take care during the second trimester of pregnancy:
Medical and Health List
- Schedule your doctor’s appointments and make sure to keep them.
- Make sure to get all your dental work done to avoid any unnecessary problems.
- Join a pregnancy exercise program or look into some exercises you can do at home.
- Stick to a healthy diet.
- Decide if you want the help of a doula at the time of labour.
- Look for parentcraft or antenatal classes to help prepare for the later stages of pregnancy.
- Keep track of your weight. Do not fall for the “eating for two” business and remember that you should only be consuming 300 extra calories each day.
- Sleep on your left side as it increases the flow of blood to the placenta.
- Get immunized in case it is flu season.
Other Logistics List
- Go shopping for maternity clothes. You will need to be comfortable for the rest of your pregnancy as you will be doing a lot of growing.
- Sit with your partner and discuss baby names.
- Make a budget as you are now going to need to spend a lot of money before and after your baby arrives. It is good to plan for these things, so you do not run into any problems later.
- Baby-proof your home and remove anything that may not be child-friendly. You can also take pleasure in decorating your baby’s room.
Precautions to Take During the Second Trimester
Here are some precautions that you need to take during the second trimester of your pregnancy:
- Only take supplements that have been prescribed by your doctor.
- Be sure to never sleep on your stomach, or you may suffocate your baby.
- Avoid self-medicating at all costs and always consult your doctor if you feel ill.
- Do not lift heavy objects or do anything too strenuous.
Warning Signs to Watch Out For
Some warning signs that you should watch are:
- Bleeding, which can mean an ectopic pregnancy or a miscarriage.
- Extreme dizziness.
- Severe cramping or abdominal pain.
- Rapid weight gain or rapid weight loss.
- Foul-smelling discharge or if it is any other colour, like green, yellow, clear or bloody.
- Persistent and severe headaches, abdominal pain and swelling typically occur when a mother is 20 weeks pregnant. These are the signs of preeclampsia.
- Low activity levels in your baby after you are 6 months pregnant could mean trouble if your baby was very active.
While all this preparation may sometimes make you anxious and nervous about what is to come, remember to relax and as long as you follow through with everything on your checklist, especially keeping a well-balanced diet, drinking lots of water, and getting plenty of rest, but also putting in some time to do some daily exercises, you will be just fine. Your doctor will be able to guide you through this and answer any questions you may have. In the end, you can hold your baby in your arms and all the discomfort during these months won’t seem so bad.