Second Trimester - What to Expect

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During the second trimester of the pregnancy, women tend to develop a renewed sense of well-being, as the worst of the “morning sickness” has passed, and they are not yet at a stage where they are made physically uncomfortable by the development of the baby.  The typical symptoms of pregnancy, however, are soon to make a dramatic shift, as the second trimester often marks the beginning of significant changes for the mother:


•    Larger Breasts:  The milk-producing glands inside of the breasts become stimulated by estrogen and progesterone, becoming larger.  There may also be an increase to the accumulation of fat inside the breasts during pregnancy.  A marked decrease to the tenderness of the breasts that has developed during the pregnancy may be noted, however, nipple tenderness may continue throughout the pregnancy.  This being the case, a supportive bra is highly recommended!

•    Growing Belly:  Throughout the pregnancy the uterus will need to enlarge and expand in order to accommodate the growing baby.  This abdominal expansion can sometime occur rapidly!  The mother should expect to gain up to four pounds per month until the end of the pregnancy is reached.

•    Skin Changes:  During a pregnancy, blood circulation to the skin tends to increase, causing certain areas of skin to become darker.  Areas that are typically affected in this manner are various parts of the face, the skin around the nipples, and the line of the skin that runs up to the navel from the pubic bone.  During pregnancy, your skin may also become more sensitive to sunlight, so it is strongly advised that you use sunscreen!
•    Stretch Marks:  Sometimes during the second trimester of the pregnancy, women develop discolored streaks along various parts of their anatomy.  These purple, pink, or red streaks often appear on the abdomen, on the upper arms, on the breasts, or on the buttocks or thighs.  These stretched areas of skin can sometimes be itchy as well!  It is not possible to prevent stretch marks, however, moisturizers can help and eventually their intensity will fade!

•    Leg Cramps:  During pregnancy, the expanding uterus and abdominal area can apply direct pressure to the veins that serve to return blood from your legs, which can result in cramping.  These leg cramps can often occur during the night.  It is suggested that you make an effort to stretch the affected muscle, or to simply walk until the cramping subsides.

•    Shortness of Breath:  During pregnancy, the lungs are forced to process more air than they did before being pregnant, so that increased oxygen is being carried through the blood stream to the baby and the placenta.  This may result in a feeling of shortness of breath or a slightly increased rate of respiration.

•    Nasal and Gum Problems:  Pregnancy tends to increase circulation and blood flow for women!  One of the areas affected by the increased blood flow are the mucous membranes, which can directly affect the lining of the airway and nasal region.  The resultant swelling can lead to congestion and nosebleeds, and can tend to restrict airflow, which can result in snoring.  The increased blood circulation can also result in the softening of the gums, which can directly contribute to the presence of minor bleeding during flossing and the brushing of teeth.  This being the case, a switch to the use of a softer toothbrush may be advisable, as this can help to decrease irritation.

•    Dizziness:  The hormonal changes experienced during pregnancy can result in a dilation of the blood vessels in the body.  As a result, the body has to increase volume in order to fill the dilated vessels, which can cause a drop in blood pressure.  It is not uncommon for women to experience occasional bouts of dizziness as a result of the falling blood pressure.  If you are experiencing this, you should make an effort to get up slowly when rising from a sitting position or from lying down.  It is also highly recommended that you drink lots of fluids.  If you are feeling dizzy, you should try lying down on your left side in an effort to help restore the blood pressure to a normal level.
•    Bladder and Kidney Infections:  Hormonal changes in the body, in conjunction with the expanding uterus and abdominal area, can result in a decrease in the flow of urine, which can directly contribute to an increased risk of kidney and bladder infections.  Should you find that you need to urinate more than usual, that you are experiencing abdominal pain or backache, that you are running a fever, or that you experience a burning sensation while urinating, you should contact your health care provider.  Urinary infections can increase the chance of preterm labor if they are left untreated.

•    Vaginal Discharge:  It is not uncommon during pregnancy for women to experience a vaginal discharge that is thin, and white in color.  It is believed that this acidic discharge is produced by the body to help counteract the growth of bacteria or yeast that can be potentially harmful.  It is highly recommended that a panty liner be worn for improved comfort.  Should the nature of the discharge change, with the odor becoming very strong or the color shifting to either a green or yellowish tint, you should contact your health care provider.  This should also be done if the change in the discharge is also followed by redness in the vaginal are, or any degree of irritation or itchiness, as these can be indicators of a vaginal infection.

•    Braxton Hicks Contractions: In preparation for the upcoming delivery, the uterus may start to contract in an effort to build up strength.  These preliminary contractions are referred to as Braxton Hicks, and are usually focused in the lower abdomen and groin.  They tend to be somewhat weak, and will come and go with no degree of predictability.  Should these contractions become either painful or regular, you are advised to contact your health care provider, as they may be an indicator of preterm labor.

•    Pregnancy can be as much a psychological journey as a physical one!  Women tend to feel less tired during the second trimester of the pregnancy, and far more willing to address the challenges of preparing their homes for the arrival of the new baby.  This presents itself as a perfect time to explore the resources that are available, such as researching a good pediatrician, or looking into courses on breastfeeding and childbirth options.  Should the mother be considering returning to work after the baby is born, she may want to thoroughly research child care options and familiarize herself with the maternity leave policy provided by her employer.  It is never too early to start researching child care options!

•    During the second trimester, the physical changes that were described previously, which impact body shape and function, can have a direct effect on the emotional state of the mother.  Some women can experience an elevated level of sexuality during pregnancy, but there are those who can feel unattractive, often associated with the growing size of their belly.  If you find that you are having a hard time with your body image, you should share your thoughts and concerns with your partner.  It is strongly suggested that you express your affection and love in whatever way makes you feel most comfortable!

•    During the second trimester, women may become preoccupied and anxious about the approaching labor and delivery, or simply by the impending responsibilities of motherhood.  It is important that you remember that not every facet of the pregnancy can be controlled or effectively planned.  It is often better to focus on making healthy lifestyle choices and to effectively research the future needs of your baby so that they can be offered the best start possible!

Health Care Provider Appointments:
•    During the second trimester, the primary focus of the prenatal appointments will be the growth and development of the baby, a close monitoring of your physical health, and a confirmation of the approaching due date.

•    You should anticipate that your weight and blood pressure will be closely monitored, and that your health care provider may start to measure your fundal height, which is the distance from the pubic bone to the top of the uterus (fundus).  Pelvic exams tend to be unnecessary at this stage of the pregnancy, unless something unusual has occurred that would warrant more involved exploration. 

•    During the second trimester, you should be able to listen to your baby’s heartbeat through the use of a device referred to as a Doppler.  If you so choose, you should be able to learn the sex of your baby.  You may also find that your health care provider suggests an ultrasound or other type of screening test during this trimester.

•    It is suggested that you voice any concerns or worries that you may have to your health care provider, even if you think of them as unimportant or silly.  This will serve to keep your health care provider informed about the things that you are experiencing during your pregnancy, and may also help to ease your worries!


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By Jack Rambadt of Expecting Parents Alliance of America

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