A woman’s body continues to change in the second trimester of her pregnancy. The second trimester is often defined as weeks 13 through 26. During this time, your baby continues to grow and develop almost daily. This means your belly grows more, and you’ll notice other changes as well.
Path to improved health
Most women who didn’t feel good in the first trimester of pregnancy usually start to feel better in the second. The nausea and vomiting from morning sickness should lessen over time. You may have more energy and fewer mood swings as your hormones balance out. This is a good time to tackle many tasks necessary to get ready for your baby.
Be prepared to gain weight more rapidly this trimester. This means you may need to start wearing maternity clothes.
Your breasts may not be as tender as they were in the first trimester, but they will continue to grow. Enlarging milk glands and deposits of fat cause the growth. These changes prepare you for breastfeeding.
You may notice that the skin on and around your nipples darkens. You may also have small bumps around your nipples. The bumps are glands that make an oily substance to keep your nipples from drying out. A yellowish fluid, called colostrum, might begin to leak from your nipples.
As your body grows, some areas of skin may become stretched tight. Elastic fibers right beneath the skin may tear. This creates streaks of indented skin called stretch marks. Stretch marks are likely to occur on your belly and breasts.
Not every pregnant woman gets stretch marks, but they’re common. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent them completely. Try to manage your weight and not gain more than what your doctor recommends. There are some lotions and oils that claim to prevent stretch marks. The effects of these products are not proven. However, keeping your skin well moisturized can help cut down on itchiness that comes with stretch marks. The marks should fade and become less noticeable after pregnancy.
Other skin changes are possible, too, although not all women get them. Common skin changes include:
- Dry, itchy skin, especially on the belly
- Increased sensitivity to the sun. This means you might burn more easily. Make sure you wear a strong sunscreen when spending time outside.
- A dark line (“linea nigra”) down the middle of your belly from your navel to your pubic hair
- Patches of darkened skin on the face (sometimes called the “mask of pregnancy”)
Most often, these changes may lessen or go away after pregnancy.
Your body is changing quickly to adapt to the growing baby. You may experience these body changes as well.
- Leg pain. You may have leg cramps, especially when you sleep. These may be related to the pressure your growing baby puts on the nerves and blood vessels that go to your legs. Make sure you sleep on your side instead of your back. Another leg condition, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), can be serious. DVT is a blood clot that forms in a vein and causes pain and swelling in one leg. Contact your doctor right away if you have these symptoms.
- Your ankles, hands, and face may swell during the second trimester. This happens because your body retains more fluid for the baby. You also have slower blood circulation.
- Aching back, pelvis, and hips. The job of supporting your growing belly puts stress on your back. Your hips and pelvis may begin to ache as pregnancy hormones relax the ligaments that hold your bones together. Your bones move to prepare for childbirth.
- Stomach pain. The muscles and ligaments supporting your uterus stretch as your uterus grows. These can cause mild pain or cramping.
- Loose teeth. Pregnancy hormones also affect the ligaments and bones in your mouth, so teeth may loosen. They return to normal after pregnancy. Contact your dentist if you have bleeding or swelling of your gums. These symptoms can be signs of periodontal disease. This condition has been linked to preterm (early) birth and low birth weight. The second trimester is the best time to have dental work done.
- Nasal congestion, nosebleeds, and bleeding gums. These result from increased blood flow to the mucous membranes in your nose and mouth.
- Heartburn may begin or worsen in the second trimester. Your growing uterus presses on your stomach, which can force food and acid up into your esophagus, causing the burn.
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs).You may develop an infection in the second trimester. Hormonal changes slow the flow of urine and your bladder doesn’t empty completely because your enlarged uterus pushes on it. Untreated UTIs can lead to preterm labor, so tell your doctor if you think you have one. Symptoms include needing to urinate more often, a burning sensation when you urinate, or the presence of blood or a strong odor in your urine.
- Braxton Hicks contractions. Also called “false labor,” Braxton Hicks contractions are a tightening of your uterine muscles. It’s one of the ways your uterus prepares for labor and delivery. Braxton Hicks make your belly feel very tight and hard and may cause discomfort. The contractions are irregular in timing and should go away within a few minutes. Call your doctor if they become regular and painful, and don’t go away when you change your position or walk around. It might be preterm labor.
Near the middle of your second trimester, you may begin to feel the baby. In the beginning, it feels like fluttering movements deep in your belly. Your baby has moved before now, but it was too deep for you to feel it. If you’ve been pregnant before, you might notice the movements earlier because you’re familiar with how they feel. Mark your calendar when you first feel movements so you can let your doctor know.
Things to consider
You may not have felt like having sex during the first trimester. Symptoms such as morning sickness, mood swings, and low energy can affect your interest. Many women find that their desire for sex returns during the second trimester. Having sex is fine anytime during pregnancy, unless your doctor says otherwise.
When to see your doctor
Continue to visit your doctor for ongoing prenatal appointments. Usually, these occur about once a month. Ask your doctor questions about the process and tell them about any concerns you have. Contact them if you have unusual changes or symptoms, especially if you have vaginal bleeding, leakage of clear fluid, burning with urination, leg swelling, or abdominal pains.
Questions for your doctor
- What kinds of physical and emotional changes should I expect?
- Are my symptoms normal?
- Are there any lifestyle changes I can make to ease symptoms?
- Is it safe to have sex?