The second trimester brings new physical changes as well as emotional ones. These are usually less dramatic than the symptoms of the first trimester. Some women will still feel remnants of early symptoms, such as morning sickness or fatigue. Generally speaking, though, the second trimester tends to be the most energetic part of pregnancy.
Baby’s first kicks. One exciting change that can be emotionally exhilarating is the sensation of baby’s first kicks. Many women begin to feel these around week 15. Others, especially second-time moms, feel them a bit earlier, and others don’t feel anything until the twentieth week or later. At first, you might think you just have a little gas. Then it might feel like you have a butterfly fluttering around inside your abdomen. Remember, there is great variety in the sensations themselves, as well as the timing and regularity of their early occurrences.
Increase in appetite. Now that most of the nausea and morning sickness of the early weeks are gone, you may notice a dramatic change in your desire for food. This is normal and necessary for the baby’s development. Listen to what your body wants to eat and drink.
Stretch marks. You may have begun to notice stretch marks by the end of your first trimester. They can appear in your breasts, and you may start to notice them in your belly, as well. The skin on your abdomen may be itchy. This is a normal result of the skin stretching from underneath as you begin to expand. Stretch marks will not disappear after you have given birth, but usually fade with time. It can be soothing to rub natural, massage-grade oil into these areas.
Varicose veins. Your blood volume increases during pregnancy. The valves that direct this increased blood through your veins and back to your heart have softened, due to higher progesterone levels, and sometimes can’t keep up with the flow. This causes blood to pool up and create varicose veins in the legs, and occasionally in the vaginal area. Your health care provider may suggest prescription support hose. It may also be helpful to put your feet up as much as possible. Ice packs and a diet rich in vitamin B6 can also relieve discomfort.
Hemorrhoids. These are actually another type of varicose veins that appear around the rectum. If you’ve been suffering from constipation, hemorrhoids can result from straining during bowel movements. Try to avoid straining. Soaking a pad with witch hazel and applying it to the affected areas can help.
Bleeding gums. This is another effect of increased blood volume during pregnancy. Changes in your hormone levels can also exaggerate your gums’ response to plaque. Be diligent (but gentle) about brushing and flossing, and visit your dentist twice during the course of your pregnancy.
Frequent nosebleeds. This is also caused by increased blood volume, which raises the pressure in your nasal capillaries. Get plenty of vitamin C in your diet. Put a little non-petroleum jelly into the nostril to help stop the bleeding. Avoid blowing your nose hard.
Urinary tract infections (UTI). Also called cystitis, UTIs are a common complication of pregnancy. You will notice a stinging or burning sensation when you urinate. It may feel as though you need to urinate constantly, even after you’ve just gone. Any type of infection in pregnancy is serious, so be sure to notify your health care provider if you suspect you have a urinary tract infection. They may prescribe an antibiotic. You can help things along by drinking lots of water and cranberry, orange, or grapefruit juice. Prevent UTIs by avoiding tight, non-cotton underwear or pantyhose. Be sure to wipe from front to back after using the toilet to keep harmful bacteria from entering the vagina.
Yeast infections. Pregnant women are at greater risk for yeast infections and types of vaginitis. A yeast infection is usually marked by increased discharge, intense itching and irritation in the vaginal area, and is sometimes accompanied by an odor. If you suspect that you have a yeast infection, consult your practitioner. The most effective natural remedy for yeast infection is acidophilus, the good bacteria that compete with the fungus that causes these infections. You can help avoid yeast infections by having plenty of yogurt, avoiding sugars and white flour in the diet, and by eating extra garlic, which is a natural antifungal. In general, the more probiotic foods you can consume while pregnant, the better.
Braxton-Hicks contractions. These might take you by surprise at first. Some women begin to have them toward the end of the second trimester, while others never have them at all. These contractions feel as though a wide, tight rubber band is squeezing your entire abdomen. Your abdomen may feel hard when you touch it. Don’t worry—these contractions are normal. They are your body’s way of circulating extra blood to the placenta, and also serve as a rehearsal for the main event¾labor.
Backache. About three-quarters of all pregnant women suffer from backache that starts in the second trimester, and a third of them experience severe problems. Backache during pregnancy is usually caused by a shift in posture, due to your growing abdomen. Hormones that cause joints and ligaments to loosen up can also contribute to back strain. Yoga and Pilates can be very helpful for back issues, both for stretching and for increasing strength in the back and abdomen. You can also purchase special tummy/back support slings made just for pregnant women. For some women, sciatica can also be a problem. In sciatica you will feel pain in the buttocks, or running down the back of one or both legs. This is the result of the growing uterus’s increasing pressure on the sciatic nerve in your back.