The Second Trimester
For many women, the middle part of pregnancy (the second trimester) is the most comfortable pregnant period. The second trimester is a good time to prepare yourself and your home for the arrival of the new baby. This is the time to begin preparing a nursery or other space for the baby, to learn about breast feeding, and to study books about early childcare.
Development. The second trimester marks a period during which the developing fetus becomes active, and begins to move, kick and swallow. Around the fifth month of pregnancy, the fetus gains the ability to turn from side to side or head over heels. It is usually around this point in the pregnancy (between the 18th and 22nd weeks) that most women experience "quickening", or the ability to feel fetal movement. It is also during this stage that the fetus begins to sleep at regular intervals. By the end of the second trimester the fetus is around 8 to 12 inches long and weighs up to 1 pound.
The Mother's Experience. The nausea and fatigue characteristic of the first trimester begin to fade for most women as they move into their second trimester. The second trimester is also marked by the development of outward symptoms of pregnancy. Many women first really begin to "feel" pregnant, and to show physical signs of pregnancy during the second trimester.
Your abdomen will begin to expand as your growing fetus gets bigger. You will likely also experience some weight gain, not all of which will be due to your fetus. As your uterus grows in size and your abdomen expands, you may notice a change in the color of the skin pigmentation on your abdomen, as well as the beginnings of stretch marks. Approximately 50% of women develop stretch marks during pregnancy. Most of these marks will fade after delivery.
The second trimester can also also be marked by aches and pains in your abdomen, groin, thighs, or back. These pains are normal, and should simply be considered signs that your body is adjusting itself to accommodate your growing fetus. Resting and heat applied to the painful muscles or massage can help to alleviate symptoms. Be careful with any medications you might think to use to relieve pain! Common pain relievers such as Aspirin and Ibuprofen can harm your developing baby. Check with your doctor if heat, rest or massage is insufficient to provide pain relief.
As your baby grows it begins to exert pressure on your organs, including your lungs. It is common for women in their second trimester to experience shortness of breath, or an increased feeling of internal pressure. Maintaining good posture and taking deep breaths may help alleviate this symptom. Doctors often recommend that pregnant women sleep on their left side in order to avoid them putting pressure on the blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to their fetus.
Complications. Though the risk of miscarriage lowers as the second trimester gets under way, the possibility of pre-term labor beings. Pre-term labor occurs when a woman goes into labor more than three weeks before her due date. Luckily, when caught early enough, pre-term labor can often be stopped by a physician. Learning to recognize the signs suggesting that pre-term labor is coming on can thus help you to save your pregnancy. Signs of pre-term labor can include:
- contractions or cramping (with or without pain)
- sharp, gas-type pains
- vaginal bleeding
- pelvic pressure
- lower backache
- increased discharge from your vagina, including watery discharge
Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.