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What to Expect: The Second Trimester

Pregnant woman photoThe second trimester takes place from the 14th to the 27th week of a woman’s pregnancy. This is usually the most comfortable and pleasant time. Mercurial Jekyll/Hyde moods begin to balance out. You no longer sob uncontrollably over a run in your hose, or laugh maniacally when someone passes gas. Morning sickness is becoming a distant memory, and you can now start showing off that baby bump in all those maternity tops you’ve carefully selected. Even that sex drive that may have waned somewhat during the nausea, exhaustion and general malaise of your first trimester may return.

What Happens Next?
The egg (zygote) evolved from being the size of a pinhead into a recognizable little human being, first called an embryo and, after 8 weeks of gestation, a full-fledged fetus. New symptoms may occur, but generally, they are more tolerable than the previous three months. These may include:

  • Nightmares: Stress, hormonal change and anxiety can affect sleep, causing you to dream about outrageous, even horrible scenarios. Waking up in a cold sweat may happen more often.
  • Abdominal discomfort: Aches and pains caused by a stretching uterus and ligaments is normal. Excruciating pain, however, is not. Call your doctor if you experience anything other than moderate discomfort.
  • Quickening: This is the term given to feeling the fetus stir inside you. At about 16 to 20 weeks, you will feel a slight flutter. As the baby grows and takes up more room, movement is felt more distinctly.
  • Blips: An odd bubbling sensation that turns into a stronger methodical twitch as pregnancy continues is simply the fetus experiencing hiccups. Don’t worry. He or she is not having seizures. Your dinner probably just didn’t agree with it.
  • Breathlessness: The uterus can crowd the lungs as the fetus grows, disrupting smooth air flow. Unless you are gasping for air, some breathlessness is normal.
  • Body shape changes: The waist thickens, hips expand, your derriere can widen, and even your face may produce an extra temporary chin if you gain too much weight too quickly. By the end of the second trimester, you will have probably gained 16 to 22 pounds. Only two can be attributed to the baby. The rest is placenta, uterus, amniotic fluid, body fluid and blood. Your body also stores about 7 pounds of fat throughout pregnancy to prepare you for breastfeeding.
  • Stretch marks: Your tummy and thigh skin, elastic as it is, can only stretch so much at a rapid pace before the middle layer of skin (dermis) tears, exposing the deeper layers. Most of these marks diminish or disappear after birth.
  • Bleeding gums: Many women experience sensitive, bleeding gums due to hormonal changes. Use floss gently and get a softer toothbrush, but don’t skimp on your dental hygiene habits.
  • Heartburn, constipation and hemorrhoids: All are common. Smaller meals are recommended, along with more fiber and fluids. Try Sitz baths and speak to your doctor about an ointment or cream to relieve irritation.

What Precautions Can I Take During This Time?

  • Keep in shape with moderate, low impact exercise.
  • Eat healthy and keep junk food to a minimum. The more weight you gain, the harder your labor can be, and losing excess pounds afterwards may be difficult.
  • Avoid unnecessary medical procedures such as Botox injections, chemical peels etc. Even whitening your teeth or coloring your hair can be harmful.
  • Take no medications without speaking to your obstetrician.
  • Keep all your prenatal appointments. You will probably be seen once a month during this time, more often if problems are detected. It’s important to monitor your progress.

What Tests Are Performed During the Second Trimester?

  • Urine tests: These will be requested at every visit to monitor protein levels.
  • Maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein (MSAFP) and multiple marker screening (MMS): One or the other are offered for genetic screening and are optional. They are used to measure specific fetal protein output to determine if there is a possibility of Down syndrome or spina bifida. If positive, an ultrasound or amniocentesis is done for confirmation.
  • Sonogram: This non-invasive procedure can be done at any time during pregnancy, but is typically conducted at the end of the first trimester or during the second to confirm gender and due date. It can also reveal such conditions as placenta previa, cleft palate, and many other developmental or growth problems.
  • Glucose screening: This checks blood sugar levels for gestational diabetes. If readings are elevated, a glucose tolerance test may be ordered.
  • Fetal Doppler ultrasound: Sound waves determine if fetal blood flow is normal.

How Big is My Baby Now?
The fetus is about 14.5 inches long and weighs a little less than 2 pounds. It is about the size of a cantaloupe and is able to blink, sleep and wake up. The brain is very active and developing rapidly. Its maturing taste buds can now taste what you eat. Experts even believe dreaming is possible. Hearing is becoming more acute and sensitive eyes may react to light.

Each trimester has its own unique milestones, and our doctors have the knowledge and expertise to make sure that your pregnancy is progressing safely and well. For more information, visit Northside Hospital Cherokee. For an appointment, call our clinic at 770.720.7733.