The second trimester of pregnancy, defined as the period from 13 weeks until 29 weeks, is much better than the first one. This stage is mostly associated with growth of the fetus and uterus, and you will start noticing the baby bump.
At the beginning of the second trimester, the fetus is generally about 6 inches in length and weighs about 4 ounces.
By the end of this trimester, the fetus has more than doubled to about 14 inches in length and his or her weight has increased nearly tenfold to about 2¼ pounds, according to the American Pregnancy Association (1).
Women often feel their best in the second trimester, as the nausea and vomiting that plagued you during the first three months generally resolve. This leaves you feeling more energetic and like your old self again.
Also, the risk of miscarriage is very less during this stage. Plus, the aches and pains that will accompany the last few months of pregnancy are still far away. Moreover, your hair growth will improve and you will have that nice pregnancy glow on your face.
However, your body goes through many changes during this phase also, and some of these changes can be unpleasant.
Here are some of the common discomforts associated with the second trimester of pregnancy.
Constipation is a common occurrence during pregnancy, and it’s more prevalent during the second trimester. Constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week.
A 2007 study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology analyzed 103 pregnant women and found that constipation prevalence rates were 24%, 26%, 16% and 24% in the first, second, and third trimesters and three months postpartum, respectively (2).
The ongoing hormonal changes that occur due to pregnancy can affect digestion and slow down bowel movements. Also, taking iron supplements can contribute to constipation.
Dietary changes like eating more fiber and drinking more water are the most practical way to treat constipation during pregnancy.
A 2001 study published in the Cochrane Database and Systematic Reviews reports that dietary fiber supplements in the form of bran or wheat fiber are likely to help women experiencing constipation in pregnancy. If the problem fails to resolve, stimulant laxatives are likely to prove more effective (3).
Along with constipation, heartburn is common during the second trimester.
A 2015 study published in BMJ Clinical Evidence reports that heartburn is one of the most common gastrointestinal symptoms in pregnant women, with an incidence of 17% to 45%.
The prevalence of heartburn has been found to increase from 22% in the first trimester to 39% in the second trimester and to between 60% and 72% in the third trimester (4).
Heartburn is caused as the body starts making more of a hormone called progesterone that relaxes the muscles in the lower esophagus. The frequent relaxation of the muscles allows stomach acid to flow back up into the esophagus, especially when you’re lying down to take a nap or after you’ve eaten a large meal.
To relieve heartburn, try eating more frequent, smaller meals throughout the day and avoid greasy, spicy and acidic foods.
During the second trimester, women can also suffer from the embarrassing problem of gas.
A slower digestive system can lead to gas buildup that causes pain in the abdomen, cramps, burping and passing of gas. This again can be attributed to the increased level of progesterone during pregnancy.
To prevent this problem, avoid trigger foods that lead to gas like carbonated beverages, dairy products, cruciferous vegetables, beans and other high-fiber foods.
Also, try smaller meals and eating slowly to avoid swallowing air. In addition, avoid eating too close to bedtime to give your food time to digest.
The extra weight that you start feeling due to the growing baby inside your womb will put a strain on your back. This will cause backaches, another common second-trimester discomfort.
You may also feel pain in your lower back due to posture changes and relaxed muscles.
A 2017 study published in the Brazilian Journal of Anesthesiology reports that low back pain is common in pregnant women, has specific characteristics and is more frequent in the second trimester of pregnancy (5).
Utilize good back support when sitting to alleviate some of the pain. Also, sleep on your side with a pillow tucked between your legs.
Avoid picking up or carrying anything heavy. Do not forget to wear low-heeled, comfortable shoes with good arch support.
Mild swelling of the ankles and feet is experienced by many pregnant women, starting at about week 22 of pregnancy and lasting until delivery.
The body produces approximately 50% more blood and body fluids to meet the needs of the developing baby.
Swelling is a normal part of pregnancy that is caused by this additional blood and fluid, according to the American Pregnancy Association (6).
To reduce swelling of the ankles and feet, try to keep active, keep your feet elevated when you’re not moving, avoid long periods of standing or sitting and sleep on your side.
6. Bleeding Gums
It is common during pregnancy to develop swollen, tender gums.
This happens due to the hormonal changes in the body that send more blood to your gums, making them more sensitive and causing them to bleed more easily.
To take care of bleeding gums, use a softer toothbrush, floss gently and use mild toothpaste.
It is also recommend that you visit your dentist early in your pregnancy, so that they can recommend any treatment that may be needed.
Important Tips for the Second Trimester
- The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all women be screened for gestational diabetes around week 24 to week 28 of pregnancy.
- Do not take any medicine without consulting your doctor first.
- Eat well, exercise regularly and get plenty of rest.
- Do not miss your routine checkups, which allow your doctor to ensure everything is progressing as expected.
- During this stage, you can request prenatal genetic screening if you have concerns about any conditions that the baby may have.
- Sleep on your side, as the weight of your growing fetus puts pressure on the vena cava, which can interfere with circulation.
- Keep doing your pelvic floor and deep breathing exercises.
- Talk to your doctor regarding how many calories you should be eating.
- It is important to track your weight gain. Too much weight gain can be bad for your health as well as your unborn baby’s.
- Second Trimester. American Pregnancy Association. http://americanpregnancy.org/while-pregnant/second-trimester/. Published September 16, 2016.
- Constipation in pregnancy: prevalence, symptoms, and risk factors. Obstetrics and Gynecology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18055731. Published December 2007.
- Interventions for treating constipation in pregnancy. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11405974/.
- Heartburn in pregnancy. BMJ Clinical Evidence. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4562453/. Published 2015.
- Low back pain during pregnancy. Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0104001416300276. Published November 25, 2016.
- Swelling During Pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/swelling-during-pregnancy/. Published January 27, 2016.