After being on a roller coaster for the first three months of your pregnancy, you'll enjoy a 'break' as you enter the second trimester.
The early pregnancy symptoms are now running out of steam, which may give you a boost to handle these days with renewed energy.
As we did with the first trimester of pregnancy, we encourage you to read the next 'chapter' of such a special guide, this time dedicated to the second trimester, which you’ll go through from 14 to 26 weeks pregnant. Take advantage of this stage, in which you'll feel relieved and light enough to be able to focus on future events, like labour and delivery. Extra planning never hurts, so start right now by paying attention to the following lines.
Second trimester: Feeling better
How are you doing? Have you been facing some rough weeks since learning that you are pregnant? If so, these may be fortunately coming to an end in the second trimester of your pregnancy. The reason is that morning sickness and vomiting, two of the most annoying pregnancy symptoms, will stop bothering you step by step. That may bring a big (and positive!) change in your life, but don't get too excited. Other side effects won't fade and, also, you will probably have to deal with new ones. During the second trimester, you can expect:
- Steady weight gain: your little one is growing very quickly, and that will be translated into you getting bigger as well. Expect to put on nearly 5 kilos during the course of these months.
- Larger breasts: get a supportive bra, because you will most likely need it. Your breasts will keep growing as you leapfrog through pregnancy trimesters, but the good news here is that their initial soreness will diminish.
- Backache: back pain in pregnancy is pretty common in pregnant women during the second trimester, due to the pressure that the extra weight causes in the area.
- Skin changes: don't be surprised if you get dark patches on your face. The change in the hormone levels provokes different reactions in your skin, like the linea nigra, a dark line that may show up across your abdomen. Many women also show stretch marks, since the skin expands as the baby grows.
- Gum problems: bleeding and sensitive gums are another common symptom of this stage, because the blood flow increases in the area. They don't generally get better until the baby is born.
- Braxton Hicks contractions: you may start feeling weak and irregular contractions. This is the way your body 'rehearses', basically getting stronger, for the big test that it will have in a few months.
- Leg cramps: you may find yourself dealing with leg cramps, above all at night-time, when they strike the most. If you want to prevent them, stay active!
Second trimester: Changes at the speed of light
Amazing is the word we'd like to use to describe your baby's development during the second trimester of pregnancy. The 'embryo days' are over and the resulting foetus keeps growing and learning new skills pretty much day by day. Starting by week 14, your little one is getting remarkable assets such as hair and eyebrows. Little by little, the baby-to-be will shift his curled up position and will become straighter. Around the 16th week, he'll also accomplish new milestones like perceiving light and hearing sounds that come from outside of the womb.
From 17 weeks pregnant to 19, picture your baby replacing cartilage with bones and practicing new abilities, including swallowing and sucking. In addition, during the second trimester he'll start moving his eyes, though these still remain sealed. If you could watch your future munchkin with detail by week 19, you would probably be fascinated: he is now able to yawn and move around with unexpected coordination. He's also adding an extra layer of protection to his skin by acquiring the vernix caseosa, a substance that combines with lanugo to generate a 'baby shield'.
From 20 weeks pregnant on, the foetus usually measures more than 6 inches long and weighs more than half a pound. His senses are becoming more acute, as he can now hear voices and open his eyelids. It is this time when he'll also start producing meconium, a mix of secretions that will turn into his first poo after birth. Besides this, we can't forget about the baby's brain, full of activity as it's weaving a network to connect with the rest of the body.
By week 26, your baby will most likely be able to have his first conscious thoughts and memories. Being the size of a pineapple (he's just experienced such a noticeable growth spurt), he may have open nostrils, which had been plugged up until this point, and a reddish skin under which there's a net of arteries and veins. When you reach the end of the second trimester, in week 27,he'll measure between 14 and 15 inches long, while he'll weigh over two pounds. Regarding new abilities, you may be able feel his hiccups... isn't that amazing? If you think so, wait for what's about to come!
Concerning signs in the second trimester of pregnancy
Though pregnancy trimesters are full of changes and symptoms that come and go, there are red flags that you shouldn't ignore under any circumstances. Remember that the most important thing is preventing both you and your baby from any serious risk. Call your doctor immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Severe abdominal pain, often accompanied by cramps
- Persistent and severe dizziness
- Extreme weight gain: it's not normal to put on more than 6.5 pounds a month, but that applies to the contrary as well. If by week 20 you've gained less than 10 pounds, seek medical help.
Second trimester: Boy or girl?
In the second trimester of pregnancy, you'll experience one of the most exciting moments as an expectant mummy. If you want to, and as long as it's clear enough, you'll find out whether you are carrying a boy or a girl in the 20 week scan, better known as the anomaly scan. This ultrasound will provide you with information about the baby's development, helping the doctor rule out any abnormalities But before that happens, you may still need to have the 12 week scan or dating scan, which is normally scheduled between 11 and 14 weeks pregnant, in case you didn't have it in the first trimester.
These two tests are the 'major' healthcare checkpoints that you'll go through over these 9 months, but they won't be the only ones. From week 15 on, you'll also be offered the triple or quadruple blood screening test, which can detect chromosomal disorders, such as the Down Syndrome or spina bifida. The care provider will basically check that your future child is ok, by measuring his growth, listening to his heartbeat and supervising the foetal movement. Moreover, expect to be offered different prenatal tests too: among other things, they will keep track of your blood pressure, look for conditions such as gestational diabetes, and control the risk of infections from urine samples.
This is also a good time to start talking to your doctor or midwife about labour and delivery options, in case you have any preference or you need a specific method due to possible complications, like placenta previa.
Preparing for the second trimester
Yes, you made a huge effort to adapt to a healthy pregnancy lifestyle during the first trimester, but you are still only halfway there... you need to keep planning! The best way to do it is creating two 'to do' lists; one dedicated to medical and health issues, and another one where you focus on other logistics.
Starting by the first, during your second trimester, remember to:
- Do your antenatal care 'homework': keep your medical calendar updated and don't forget to schedule your appointments with the doctor. Of course, don't miss them!
- Decide if you want a doula: the second trimester is a good time for you to plan whether you want to have a doula to give you emotional support during labour.
- Dental cleaning: as pointed out in the symptoms section, bleeding gums is a common symptom of the second trimester. Having your teeth cleaned professionally may help you prevent infections and even premature labour, according to experts.
- Join pregnancy exercise sessions: prenatal yoga and special Pilates for pregnant women are a safe way to keep you moving and make you leave the house. Another option is trying pelvic floor exercises, which will help you strengthen the vaginal area.
- Join antenatal classes: you should start doing some research about where to take antenatal classes in your area. You will learn useful things for the last weeks of your pregnancy, labour and for the first weeks with your little one. You can ask your doctor or midwife for information.
- Don't abandon a healthy diet: it's easy to relax about the way you are eating once you are past the first trimester. Well, you can give into some food cravings, but try to be strict about what’s on your menu—if possible full of fruits and vegetables, proteins, calcium, whole grains and healthy fats. And don't forget to drink a lot of water (an average of 6 to 8 glasses of water a day!).
- Keep track of your weight: yes, your doctor is very attentive and he does monitor you very well, but you have the responsibility of taking care of yourself too! And one way to do it is by checking how much you weigh. Also, forget about that saying that states that you are "eating for two". Just think that you should get 300 extra calories every day.
- Sleep on your left side: from this point on, doctors recommend sleeping on your left side, if possible with a pillow between your legs, below your hips. This position is meant to increase blood flow towards the placenta.
Regarding other logistics, during your second trimester, try to get the following things ready:
- Buying maternity clothes: don't wait until you have a big baby bump to go shopping. The sooner you have your maternity clothes ready, with different sizes, the better.
- Reduce your list of possible baby names: in the first trimester of pregnancy guide, we suggested creating a list of favourite names for your baby. By now, you could just have a few candidates left or, even just the 'winner'. And if you still haven’t made a decision, learning the gender of your baby will help you cut the candidates in half: you can focus either in baby girls names or in baby boys names!
- Knowing the gender: you need to decide if you want to know the gender of your baby-to-be, which could be revealed in the anomaly scan or an amniocentesis, in case you need one.
- Being financially responsible: making a budget for what's about to come before and after your baby is born is essential.
- Deciding on presents: this could be included in the budget part, but in the 'savings' list. Your family and friends may give you lots of presents to welcome your little one, and that will be very helpful. Instead of letting them decide, write down what's a priority. If you were thinking of organizing a baby shower, this is a good moment to start doing it!
- Adapting your house: this doesn’t just mean setting up the baby’s room! You need to make sure that your house will be risk free for your little one, once he's a little bit independent.
Summing up, the second trimester of pregnancy should allow you to be more active and prepare carefully for what's about to come. Try to be excited instead of nervous about the ultrasounds, which will give you more information about your future son or daughter. And, remember, only one trimester more to go… and you will be a mum!