For many women, the second trimester comes with the fewest discomforts, and is therefore the most enjoyable time of pregnancy. As your hormones balance out, you may have more energy, fewer mood swings, and less morning sickness. Before you know it, you’ll be wearing maternity clothes and will begin to feel the baby move (sometimes called “quickening”). You might even experience that pregnancy glow you’ve always heard about!
Still, some signs and symptoms of pregnancy are more common than others, and they can vary from person to person, even from pregnancy to pregnancy. Learning what to expect during pregnancy helps you know what’s normal and what’s not, so you can take the best care of yourself for these full nine months.
What to Expect
Here’s a rundown of what to expect during your second trimester, which starts in week 14 and lasts through week 27 of pregnancy.
Dizziness and shortness of breath:
With your heart and lungs working overtime, you might find yourself feeling dizzy and short of breath in the second half of pregnancy. Be mindful to avoid sitting up or standing up too abruptly, and take it easy when you engage in physical activity. Take care to not become overheated. If you need to rest, lie down on your side until you’re feeling better. Keeping your blood sugar steady can also help prevent dizziness—a vote for eating 5 to 6 mini-meals throughout the day.
Stuffiness and nosebleeds:
Raise your hand if you didn’t see this one coming! During pregnancy you could experience nasal congestion and even occasional nose bleeding, due to increased blood flow to the mucous membranes in your nose. Saline drops and humidifiers are good ways to keep the skin in your nasal passages moisturized and ease these symptoms. But you’ll want to avoid most decongestant medications; check with your ob-gyn before taking anything.
Loose teeth and bleeding gums:
The combination of pregnancy hormones and increased blood flow can definitely affect your oral health too. You may notice your teeth are looser and your gums are more sensitive to bleeding. Rest assured, things will return to normal after you give birth. Until then, be gentle with your brushing and flossing routine, and keep up with your routine dental visits. Severely bleeding gums can be sign of disease and is associated with preterm labor, so be sure to communicate any changes to your health care team.
The girls may not ache as much as they did in the first trimester. But your breasts will continue to grow as milk glands expand and fatty tissue builds up. This is your body’s way of preparing to provide nourishment for your baby.
breasts start to produce colostrum in the first few weeks of the second trimester. Colostrum is the first milk your body produces in pregnancy and for the first few days after your baby's birth.
You could notice stretch marks as your skin stretches to accommodate your changing body. These reddish, indented streaks of skin could appear on your breasts, thighs, hips, or stomach. There is no way to prevent them, but they will almost certainly will fade with time. (Think of them as badges of honor!)
Other skin changes:
In addition to stretch marks, it is normal to have dry and itchy skin during pregnancy, especially on your belly. Lotion can help make your skin feel more comfortable. Other common pregnancy-related skin conditions include the appearance of a faint dark line stretching from your belly button to your pubic area (linea nigra) and dark patches on your face (melasma, or mask of pregnancy). These too should fade after you deliver. Finally, your skin may be more sensitive to sun exposure during pregnancy, so daily sunscreen is a must.
Aches and pains:
Your pregnant body is adapting to its new shape, size, and center of gravity. Your expanding uterus is putting pressure on nearby muscles. Meanwhile, pregnancy hormones have relaxed the ligaments that hold your bones together so they can expand as needed during childbirth. It’s no wonder, then, that many pregnant women experience pain in their back, pelvis, hips, legs, and lower abdomen. (This last one is called round ligament pain.)
You can try several things to take the pressure off and prevent these aches and pains:
- Sit in a supportive chair and shift your position often.
- Say goodbye to high heels and hello to low-heeled shoes (ballet flats and flip flops aren’t the best choices because they often don’t provide enough arch support).
- At night, sleep on your side with a pillow wedged between your legs.
- Stretch your calf and hip muscles if they feel tight.
- A massage, warm bath, or heating pad may help too.
As always, check with your doctor before taking pain medication, as some are unsafe to use during pregnancy.
Did you know your body produces about 50% more blood and body fluids during pregnancy? Some of that may show up as minor swelling in your face, hands, legs, ankles, and feet—all totally normal.
To lessen swelling, avoid standing for long periods of time and put your feet up whenever you can. Drink lots of water and cut back on caffeine and sodium (salt), which can make matters worse. Excessive swelling could be a sign of a more serious condition called pre-eclampsia, so if you notice sudden swelling, it’s important that you reach out to your healthcare provider.
You may wonder why your belly occasionally becomes rock-hard for moments at a time. These are called Braxton-Hicks contractions, a.k.a. “false labor” or “practice contractions”—and that’s exactly what they do, help your uterus prepare for labor. Braxton-Hicks contractions can start as early as 16 weeks, although some mamas may not experience them until the third trimester. They’re most likely to occur in the evening hours, after physical activity, or after sex.
But unlike labor contractions, Braxton-Hicks are temporary and don’t follow any distinct pattern. Changing position and drinking water should help them go away. Call your doctor if your contractions last more than a few minutes or intensify, as it could be a sign of preterm labor.
As your uterus expands, it will continue putting pressure on your stomach and other internal organs. As a result, heartburn (acid reflux) and constipation could worsen in your second trimester and through the end of pregnancy. Keep eating high-fiber foods and avoiding those known to make heartburn worse, such as spicy foods, fatty foods, and citrus. Drinking plenty of H2O can also help things move in the right direction.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs):
Pregnant women are at high risk for UTIs because of changes to the urinary tract. Know the symptoms—including pain when urinating, frequent urination, and cloudy urine—and see your ob-gyn if you think you have a UTI. They’ll be able to prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.
During pregnancy it is normal to have heavier vaginal discharge, which could be sticky, clear, or white. But get in touch with your ob-gyn if your discharge increases suddenly, starts to smell funny, changes color, or if you have itching in that area. These could be signs of infection or another issue.
Weight gain:You will likely gain weight more rapidly in the second trimester, between 1/2 and 1 pound per week. Your ob-gyn will keep an eye on your progress and recommend a healthy range for total weight gain, based on your pre-pregnancy weight and other factors.
Stages and Changes
Pregnancy is a time of enormous change, both inside and out. While some aspects of pregnancy can be uncomfortable, they are usually manageable—and keep in mind, they won’t last forever.
Pay attention to how you feel and call your ob-gyn if you are worried about any of your second trimester signs and symptoms. No question is too small or too strange, and you don’t have to wait until your next visit to seek help. Your ob-gyn practice is there to support you throughout your prenatal care.
Ready for the home stretch, mama? Learn what to expect in the third and final trimester of pregnancy.
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