You’re Halfway Through Pregnancy! What’s Next?
As you round the corner on 20 weeks, you will officially be approaching the halfway point of your pregnancy. Seems impossible, right?
But as fast as the first half of pregnancy went, the second half may present a few more challenges, thanks to that ever-increasing bump, so now is a great time to get a head start on getting ready for your baby.
Second Trimester Checklist
First things first—you and your baby’s health. Here are the second trimester tests you can expect:
- Pregnancy check-ups once a month. During your second trimester, you will continue to see your pregnancy care provider about once a month, unless you have any complications or conditions that need to be more closely monitored. Your check-ups will include a weight check for you, urine testing for sugar, protein, or an infection, your blood pressure, and of course, monitoring the baby.
- Prenatal screenings. Your doctor will most likely schedule some blood tests during your second trimester of pregnancy that will screen for certain genetic conditions and birth defects. These second trimester screenings are done with just a small blood sample right in the office or lab that your doctor uses.
- Doppler heartbeat check. If you haven’t already heard your baby’s heartbeat, the second trimester is an incredibly exciting time because your baby will finally be big enough for your doctor to use the handheld Doppler to pick up the heartbeat. Your doctor will use the Doppler to check your baby’s heartbeat at every visit now. It’s the best sound in the whole world. Get ready for a rush of love!
- Ultrasound. And of course, the moment you’ve waited for—the second trimester means it’s time to schedule your baby’s official anatomy ultrasound. Depending on your doctor’s practice, you may have had first trimester ultrasounds as well, but the second trimester ultrasound is a very important one for checking how your baby is growing and developing. Most often, it’s done between 18 and 22 weeks of pregnancy.
- Blood glucose testing. Near the end of your second trimester, typically by 28 weeks, your doctor will also order your blood glucose testing to check for gestational diabetes. You will have to drink a sugar solution, then have your blood drawn in one hour to see how much glucose is in your blood afterwards.
Get Ready for Baby
Along with taking care of you and your baby’s health needs, the second trimester is the ideal time to start preparing for your little one’s arrival. Think registry, birth plan, how you want to tell family and friends, the best way to break the news to your employer, and researching any childcare accommodations you may need.
You’ll also want to take advantage of that second trimester surge of energy to really get things rolling. Oh, and side note: if you aren’t feeling that supposed second trimester energy surge either, don’t worry—not everyone gets it, so if you’re still having vomiting in the second trimester and are wanting to nap 24/7, it’s totally normal. Just try to take advantage of doing as much online as you can to get ready instead. Pro tip: schedule automatic diaper and wipes subscriptions with Amazon Prime!
What Happens to A Woman’s Body During the Second Trimester?
Although it may not look like it, a lot went down during your first trimester of pregnancy—in fact, every major organ and system of your baby’s body has been set into place by the end of the first trimester.
Now, during the second trimester, your baby will be primarily focused on some major growth and development, and you may start feeling a little bit more like yourself as a result. The massive surge of hormones you went through in the first trimester has decreased, so many women experience less throwing up in the second trimester and feel like some of their energy returns. You may also notice that some of the other pregnancy symptoms you felt in the first trimester, such as nipple and breast tenderness and food aversions or cravings, ease up as well.
You will most likely notice more significant weight gain during the second trimester too, although how much weight you will gain does depend on your starting weight. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists notes that most women gain between 1 and 4.4 pounds in the first trimester, and typically gain about one-half to one pound per week during the second trimester.
Second Trimester Symptoms
While every pregnancy is different and some people may “show” earlier than others, the second trimester is when you will go through the most noticeable changes in your body, such as:
Growing Belly and Sore Breasts in the Second Trimester
During the second trimester of pregnancy, one of the big changes you may notice happening is that your baby bump will finally “pop”. You may even feel like your belly seems to show drastically overnight, which is very normal—it’s not uncommon to wake up one morning and feel like nothing fits you anymore!
As your belly grows, keep in mind that there are many factors that can affect how you show, such as your own body shape, how tall you are, or if you have had other pregnancies. Some women may also have a retroverted or “tilted” uterus, which means they may take longer to shower than others.
Your breasts may become less tender and sore as your first trimester hormones decrease a bit, but you may notice that your breast size continues to grow and your breasts change appearance. For instance, you will probably have to buy new bras if you haven’t already, you might notice more veins in your breasts, and the areolas will continue to thicken and darken.
Some women can also experience colostrum (that’s the early milk your body produces and you’ll see it by how yellow it is) leaking even in the second trimester, especially with any nipple stimulation, like a water spray in the shower or with sexual activity. It can feel strange to leak so early, but it is normal and not dangerous, so just use some breastfeeding pads if it bothers you.
Braxton Hicks Contractions and Cramping in the Second Trimester
Because your baby is going through a lot of physical growth during this trimester (you’ll feel your baby moving by 20 or 22 weeks if it’s your first baby), you may experience what feels like cramping and discomfort in your lower abdomen as your ligaments stretch to accommodate your growing uterus.
You may also start to experience Braxton Hicks contractions in your second trimester—these contractions are considered “warm-up” contractions for the real deal of labor but can still feel similar to a real contraction, especially if this is your first pregnancy. A Braxton-Hicks contraction feels like a “squeeze” on your uterus and the easiest way to tell if it’s a Braxton-Hicks contraction and not a real one is to change positions or activity and drink water; a real contraction will increase in intensity, while a Braxton-Hicks will eventually fizzle out.
All that said, however, if you ever experience any regular cramping or contractions, bleeding, fluid leaking, or a decrease in your baby’s movement, or if you have any concerns whatsoever, you should always call your doctor. Any pregnancy provider will tell you that you can never bug them with concerns and it’s always better to be safe.
Skin Changes in the Second Trimester
As your belly grows, you may notice stretch marks appearing and feel some itchiness as your skin stretches. You can definitely apply things like cocoa butter or lotion for comfort, but just keep in mind that stretch marks happen primarily thanks to genetics, so if they’re going to happen, they’re going to happen. And although most people talk about stretch marks on their stomach, stretch marks can happen anywhere that there is rapid growth, so yes, that includes your breasts too!
And while some mild itchiness is normal, especially on your stomach as it stretches, if you have any severe itching or a rash that develops close to the end of the second trimester, be sure to talk to your doctor, as some people can develop a skin condition called PUPPP.
Some women will also develop a dark line running down the middle of their stomach (called the linea nigra), which occurs as a result of hormones. It will eventually disappear after pregnancy, although it can take several months after delivery. Other skin changes can include gums that bleed more easily, nose congestion and sometimes nose bleeds, and the fun of hemorrhoids or spider and varicose veins developing, thanks to increased blood volume and pressure from your baby.
Leg Cramps in Second Trimester
Leg cramps—especially at night—tend to develop in the second trimester of pregnancy. No one knows exactly what causes them, but stretching, staying hydrated, keeping active, and in some cases, taking a magnesium or calcium supplement may help. If you’re getting more than the occasional leg cramp, talk to your doctor about options to help with them.
Discharge and UTIs during the Second Trimester
You may start to develop normal white-colored second trimester discharge called leukorrhea. Vaginal discharge, in general, tends to increase as you approach your due date.
However, if you ever have thick, cottage-cheese appearing discharge, burning, or any discharge that has a bad odor, you should see your doctor. Your risk of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI) also increases during your second trimester, due to hormone changes and as your uterus puts more pressure on your bladder. Be sure to use the restroom frequently, wash with soap and water, and let your doctor know if you have any pain or burning with urinating.
Fatigue in the Second Trimester
Just like with morning sickness, you may notice that your second trimester fatigue decreases. In fact, a lot of women report feeling the best during their second trimester, with more energy and less physical discomfort than in the first and third trimesters.
Fetal Development in the Second Trimester
By the end of the second trimester, from 13 to 27 weeks, your little one will about 2 pounds and 9 inches long and have reached some exciting milestones such as:
- Week 13–your baby will practice swallowing in-utero, thanks to the production of urine this week (I know, gross, but also, necessary).
- Week 14—your baby’s sex is clear. Up to this point, it hasn’t been clear physically what sex your baby is, although blood testing could determine it earlier.
- Week 15—hello, hair! Those first hairs are lining your little one’s scalp.
- Week 16—movements are becoming more coordinated, even if you can’t quite feel them yet.
- Week 17—baby toenails have arrived! And yes, they’re as adorable as they sound.
- Week 18—your baby is beginning to hear.
- Week 19—the digestive system is working well, and the white “cheesy” protective coating you see on babies’ skin after birth is forming.
- Week 20—you’re halfway through your pregnancy, and your baby is forming meconium and has eyelashes and eyebrows.
- Week 21—most moms have felt babies’ movements by now.
- Week 22—baby can suck his or her thumb. Will your little one be a thumb-sucker? You’ll have to wait and see!
- Week 23—REM sleep is initiated, and footprints and fingerprints are forming.
- Week 24—a special substance is in the lungs to help them develop, and your baby begins breathing practice.
- Week 25— your baby can respond to your voice this week, so don’t feel weird about singing, chatting, or reading to your little one if you’d like.
- Week 26—your baby’s eyes can open and close.
- Week 27—your baby is starting to add fat, which is important for growth and keeping the body warm after birth.
Start Planning for Your Little One
Next up, it’s time to start the fun of planning for your baby! You may have held off on announcing or making long-term arrangements in the first trimester, but now you may feel ready to start doing a little more planning.
You might want to use the second trimester to start checking off some of the following big-ticket items:
- Schedule childbirth education classes.
- Take a tour of your birthing facility (if your childbirth class doesn’t offer this, you can simply call the facility and ask for a tour on your own).
- Prep a hospital bag.
- Decide if you want to find out your baby’s sex.
- Start a baby registry.
- Think about your birth plan basics, such as if you want an epidural, if you’d prefer to try breastfeeding, and if you want visitors after birth.
- Let your employer know of your pregnancy and complete any required maternity leave paperwork.
- Start looking into childcare options for after leave.
- If you have a partner, have “The Talk” on how you plan to support each other through labor, birth, and postpartum and how you will maintain communication and a strong relationship.
Staying Healthy During the Second Trimester
There is a lot of discussion about the baby during your pregnancy, but right now, more than ever, it’s important to learn the lesson that, as a parent, taking care of your baby means taking care of yourself too.
You can prioritize your physical and mental health during this second trimester by:
- Continuing to take your prenatal vitamins—if you have trouble stomaching or swallowing them, talk to your doctor about different options they can recommend.
- Exercising—in general, any activity you did regularly before conceiving can be continued throughout your pregnancy, although you should always check with your own doctor and modify as needed. For instance, if you were a runner, you may just need to lower your mileage as your belly grows or if you lift, you may need to adjust how much weight you are lifting and extend your rests periods as your pregnancy progresses.
- Eating a well-balanced, healthy diet—this is definitely not the time to start any restrictive eating plan, like low-carb or intermittent fasting.
- Focusing on your mental health—being aware of postpartum depression is crucial, but it’s also important that you know that mental health challenges can begin at any point during pregnancy, especially if you had any mental health conditions before you got pregnant. If you are suffering from depression, anxiety, or any other mental health symptoms during your pregnancy, please talk to your doctor, because there are treatment options even while you are pregnant and again, it’s so important to care for you first and foremost.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will I finally start to feel better this trimester?
Most women will experience a relief from morning sickness around 12-13 weeks, but it’s different for everyone. Chances are though, you should start to feel somewhat more human this trimester!
Why don’t have I the burst of energy everyone keeps talking about?
A lot of people like to talk about the second trimester a being the “sweet spot” of pregnancy, because your bump’s not too large yet, you’re finally starting to stop puking at the smell of, well, everything, and that fog of first-trimester exhaustion lifts a bit. But if you’re still not feeling great, don’t stress—pregnancy is still a lot of hard work, and it’s OK if you’re not feeling your best. Try to remember that even if you’re feeling like you can’t be as productive right now, you’re still growing a human being, and that definitely counts for something.
Is it safe to have sex?
As long as your doctor hasn’t told you otherwise, it’s perfectly safe to resume any bedroom activities you’re feeling up for. A lot of women actually experience an increase in libido, thanks to all those extra hormones and increased blood flow.
When will I feel the baby kick?
If you’re a first-time mom, you may start to feel the baby kick around 20 weeks. Moms who have been pregnant past the first trimester may feel those first flutters somewhere around week 15-16.