Pregnancy: Second Trimester
What is the second trimester of pregnancy?
The typical pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks. It’s divided into three periods of time — the first, second and third trimester. Each trimester is roughly 14 weeks long. When you enter your second trimester, you are around 14 weeks pregnant. This middle trimester will last from week 14 to the end of week 27.
During your second trimester of pregnancy, you’ll start looking and feeling more pregnant. For many people, this is the best part of pregnancy because the morning sickness and fatigue of their first trimester fade into the past. Often, any anxiety that went with your first trimester also starts to diminish at this point. You’ll start to feel your fetus move by the end of this trimester, and you might begin to settle into your pregnancy and enjoy it more. Of course, it’s important to remember that pregnancy is different for everyone. Some people never experience negative symptoms like morning sickness in their first trimester. Others might continue to feel sick well into their second trimester of pregnancy.
How does my baby develop during the second trimester of pregnancy?
Your fetus will go through many changes during your second trimester of pregnancy. During this trimester, your fetus will start to look more like a child — with their facial features aligning, and their fingers and toes becoming well-defined. By month four, your fetus will actually have eyelids, eyebrows, eyelashes, nails and hair. Your fetus will also be able to stretch, make faces and even suck on their thumb. You’ll soon be able to determine the gender of your fetus on an ultrasound — often around 20 weeks.
At this point, you might also start feeling your fetus move. The movement is often described as a flutter or similar to the feeling of having butterflies in your stomach. Your fetus will be doing flips and movements throughout your second trimester. This first movement is called the quickening. If this isn’t your first pregnancy, you might feel your fetus move sooner.
In the last few weeks of the second trimester, your fetus can also hear you. If you talk to your growing belly, you might notice movement in response.
If your baby was born at the end of your second trimester (premature birth), they would be likely to survive with intensive care.
What happens to my body during the second trimester of pregnancy?
Your fetus isn’t the only one growing and changing during your second trimester. You'll notice several changes in your own body during this time. Your uterus — the place where your fetus grows during pregnancy — continues to stretch. This organ will expand throughout your pregnancy as your fetus gets larger. After pregnancy, your uterus will return to its pre-pregnancy size (picture an upside-down pear).
However, your uterus isn’t the only thing growing during the second trimester either. You’ll start gaining weight and might start developing the tell-tale enlarged belly of a pregnant person. Don’t worry if this takes time to develop. Everyone is different, and no two bodies will look exactly the same during pregnancy.
You might also feel or develop a few new symptoms of pregnancy during your second trimester, including:
- An increased appetite.
- An achy body.
- Some swelling in your hands, feet and ankles.
- Some stretch marks.
If you experienced morning sickness during your first trimester, it’s likely fading away now. The uncomfortable symptoms of early pregnancy (nausea and extreme fatigue, for example) don’t typically continue into your second trimester. This is one reason why many people consider their second trimester of pregnancy to be the best part of pregnancy.
What tests will I have during the second trimester of pregnancy?
Throughout your pregnancy, your healthcare provider will order various tests to check on your health and the health of your developing fetus. During your second trimester, you’ll typically be screened for a few different things, including the Rh factor of your blood and the condition gestational diabetes. You'll also have an ultrasound during your second trimester. This ultrasound is probably best known for telling new parents the sex of their baby, but it’s mainly used to look at their anatomy.
One thing your provider will test for during your second trimester is your Rh factor. Rh factor is an antigen protein found on most people’s red blood cells. If you don’t have the protein, then you are Rh- (negative). You’ll be given an injection of Rh immune globulin (called Rhogam®) during the 28th week of your pregnancy to prevent the development of antibodies that could be harmful to your fetus. You’ll also be given an injection of Rhogam® after delivery if your fetus has Rh+ (positive) blood.
If you are Rh-, you may also receive this injection if you:
- Are having an invasive procedure (such as amniocentesis).
- Had an abdominal trauma.
- Had any significant bleeding during pregnancy.
- Need to have your baby turned in the uterus (due to breech presentation).
Your provider will also order a test called the oral glucose screening test. This is usually done at the end of your second trimester — often between weeks 24 and 28. The purpose of the glucose screening test is to see if you are developing gestational diabetes. During the test, you’ll be given a syrup-like drink. The healthcare provider administering this test will give you a set amount of time to drink the entire bottle, then you'll be asked to wait nearby for one hour. After the hour is over, you’ll have your blood drawn. Your healthcare provider will then go over your test results with you.
What do I need to prepare or plan for during the second trimester of pregnancy?
There are many things you can start thinking about during your second trimester of pregnancy to prepare for your new family member. Many of these things will center around conversations that you should start having at this point in your pregnancy. It’s good to discuss the type of birth you hope to have and learn about the different ways your child might be born.
A few ways your baby could be born can include:
- Vaginal birth (this could be medicated so that your pain is decreased, or unmedicated).
- Assisted birth (you might need tools like forceps or a vacuum to help with your delivery).
- Cesarean section (C-section).
You can learn more about these types of birth through your own research or in a birth class. This is the time for you to look into educational classes about birth, breastfeeding and parenting of your newborn. These classes can help prepare you for your new role as a parent. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on classes and groups you can join at this point in your pregnancy.
This might also be a good time to take a tour of the hospital where you’ll give birth. A hospital tour is a great way to get familiar with the place where your baby will be born. During the tour, you’ll learn where you should go when you first get to the hospital during labor and what will happen afterward. You’ll typically get to see hospital rooms and learn more about the hospital staff, as well.
What should I be doing during the second trimester of pregnancy to stay healthy?
Throughout your second trimester, you should continue maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Try to exercise for about 20 minutes a day. Regular exercise is good for you and your developing fetus. Some of the safest types of exercise include walking and swimming; though, there are many other options you can try. Talk to your healthcare provider about the type of exercise you'd like to do beforehand just to be safe. You’ll want to avoid contact sports and activities where you could fall, as these could endanger your pregnancy.
It’s also a good idea to do kegel exercises throughout your entire pregnancy. These exercises will help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
Apart from exercise, you should continue eating a healthy diet, taking your prenatal vitamins and attending each of your appointments.
When should I call my doctor during the second trimester of pregnancy?
You’re the person who knows your body the best. If you ever feel like something is wrong, it’s completely OK to reach out to your healthcare provider. It’s also a good idea to call your healthcare provider right away if you have:
- Unusual or severe cramping or abdominal pain.
- Noticeable changes in how much your fetus moves (after 28 weeks of gestation). If you don’t count six to 10 movements in one hour or less, call your provider.
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath that seems to be getting worse over time.
You should also reach out to your provider right away if you start having any signs of premature labor. Talk with your provider if you have any of the following signs of premature labor:
- Regular tightening or pain in your lower abdomen or back that occurs more than four times in an hour.
- Any bleeding in your second or third trimester of pregnancy.
- Any fluid leakage. Vaginal discharge often increases as part of the hormonal changes in pregnancy.
- Pressure in your pelvis or vagina.
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