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Second Trimester

Many women say the second trimester is the easiest. For most, nausea has subsided and energy level is high. Passing the first trimester reduces the risk of miscarriage and this may bring a sigh of relief. A new mother-to-be has had some time to adjust to idea of being pregnant, and is usually feeling more connected to the fetus. Fetal movement is usually felt between the 18th and 22nd week of pregnancy. During this trimester, mother's growing belly will announce the development of the baby she is carrying.

The following table is meant to answer questions related to second trimester of pregnancy. These are common experiences and questions of women during their 13th to 27th weeks of pregnancy.

Questions About Your Second Trimester
What happens during my prenatal medical visit?
  • You will likely be seeing your health care provider once a month.
  • You will have your weight and blood pressure checked at each visit.
  • You will have your urine tested for sugar and protein at each visit.
  • The fetal heartbeat will be monitored.
  • Your health care provider will feel the size and shape of your uterus by pressing on your stomach.
  • The fundus will be measured. This measures the size of the uterus and where it is situated in your abdomen.
  • Any complaints or health concerns can be discussed at your medical visits. Be sure to bring a list of your questions to your prenatal medical visits.
What tests will need to be done, and why?
  • Alphafetoprotein (AFP) screening test. This tests helps to detect neural tube defects which affect the spine and brain of the fetus.
  • A blood test to screen for diabetes is done between weeks 24-28. A sugary drink is taken and the lab tests your blood sugar levels at specific intervals. (Some women who are at higher risk for developing diabetes during pregnancy are screened earlier).
  • An antibody test is done for Rh-negative women.
  • Complete blood counts to check for anemia.
  • An ultrasound (sonogram) may be done around the 20th week to view the baby and the position of the placenta. Certain handicaps can be detected with ultrasound.
How will my body change?
  • Nasal congestion. Hormonal changes can cause swelling of mucous membranes, a stuffy nose, postnasal drip, and occasional nose bleeds. Allergies may seem worse. Be sure to check with your doctor before taking any medications to treat this problem.
  • Increased vaginal secretions are normal. Report any foul, itchy or discolored discharge.
  • Increased sweating. This may be due to increased maternal blood volume.
  • Slight shortness of breath is a result of hormonal changes which affect the blood flow and muscles in the lungs.
  • Heartburn can occur as the growing uterus crowds the stomach. Acid reflux may occur.
  • Swollen gums. This is caused by hormonal changes. You may have some bleeding from the gums when you brush your teeth. Use a soft toothbrush and continue to brush and floss regularly.
  • Abdominal aches are usually related to the stretching tummy and the ligaments in the abdomen.
  • Leg and foot cramps. Don't point your toes down when you stretch, keep you feet flexed to reduce cramping.
  • Stretch marks. These common streaks occur as the skin stretches. They can't really be prevented in most women, but they often fade after pregnancy.
  • Darkening of the skin pigment may occur because of the pregnancy hormones. Some women get darkening of the skin on the face, known as the mask of pregnancy. Many women notice a dark line down the middle of their abdomen. These color changes should disappear shortly after the baby is born.
  • Constipation can become a problem. Relieve constipation by drinking plenty of fluids, eating a diet higher in fiber and getting regular exercise.
  • Hemorrhoids can result if constipation isn't resolved.
  • Varicose veins (swollen/bluish veins usually in the legs) occur in some women. To help prevent this problem, avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time, don't put on excess weight, be sure to walk or do other regular exercise, try wearing supportive pantyhose, and don't smoke.
  • Headaches may occur more frequently. Try to get enough rest and relaxation. Be conscientious of good posture. Massage the neck, shoulders and head. If you need a pain reliever, be sure to check the safety with your doctor. Most over-the-counter pain relievers are not recommended during pregnancy.
  • Backaches can occur as the enlarging belly affects your posture. Wear supportive shoes, not high heals. Gain appropriate amounts of weight, but not excess weight. Don't stand or sit for extended periods of time. Do exercises that are designed to improve muscle tone and posture during pregnancy.
  • Sometimes a nerve in the hip/buttocks area (sciatic nerve) gets pinched because of pressure exerted on it. Special stretching exercises may help.
I have some concerns. Am I doing everything I can to insure this pregnancy continues to go well?
  • Sex during pregnancy. Unless your doctor has given you specific instructions to curtail your sexual activity, sexual activity is safe during pregnancy. You might have to get more creative as the expanding belly gets in the way. If you have specific fears or concerns, be sure to bring them up with your health care provider.
  • Travel. In general, it is safe to take the vacation that you have planned. And it may be the last chance to do so before the birth of the baby. Let your health care provider know some of the details of your plans to make sure that you aren't taking any unnecessary risks.
  • Participating in sports and exercise. Fitness during pregnancy is important, but keep it a low risk activity. Discuss exercise options with your health care provider. Drink plenty of fluids and don't exercise to the point of exhaustion or overheating. Do safe exercises and exercises that are designed for pregnancy.
  • Working. If you think your job environment poses a risk to you or your fetus, discuss it with your health care provider. However, if you work in a safe environment and you don't have to overexert yourself physically, and you don't have to stand for long periods of time, then working during pregnancy can be perfectly fine. Check with your doctor if you have questions regarding your specific situation.
  • Delivery options. Towards the end of the second trimester, you may want to sign up for childbirth and parenting classes.

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