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Pregnancy month-by-month: 2nd Trimester

What you can expect and what you need to prepare for over these months

Posted: 28 March 2009
by Maria Muennich

Month Four | Month Five | Month six

The Fourth Month
Welcome to your second trimester! This is usually the part of pregnancy that women enjoy most as the 12-week scan - and the most critical phase of fetal development - is safely behind them, they regain some energy and many of the common discomforts of the first trimester fade away.

By the start of month four your body will probably have begun to change shape, starting with a thickening of your waist (making your regular clothes uncomfortable), changes to your breasts and then the emergence of a noticeable bump. For some women these physical changes are evident several weeks earlier, particular then it isn't a first pregnancy. From now on you'll be thinking about how to stay stylish during your pregnancy and be wondering what you should invest in and where to buy it from. You may well already feel the need for new bras. While going all out for maternity wear can be expensive, don't worry, you can get by for most occasions on relatively few essentials and there are plenty of places doing affordable maternity chic.

As your bump takes shape you may find that your skin develops dark patches, and perhaps the 'linea nigra' running down from your tummy button. Stretching pregnancy skin often becomes more sensitive and itchy, and you're probably wondering what you can do to prevent stretchmarks (sadly there's no guaranteed way to avoid these, but frequent moisturising can help).

Telling people about the baby
With the 12-week scan safely under your belt and your pregnancy becoming more obvious, you might now feel more comfortable telling people about the pregnancy. If you've waited until now to tell family and close friends then you can enjoy sharing the good news, and not needing to create elaborate excuses for any unusual pregnancy-related behaviour. If you have other children then you might want to think carefully about how you explain your pregnancy to them. It's a good idea to share the news with your children early so that you can start preparing them for the arrival of their sibling.

If you're working then you're not legally required to tell them about your pregnancy until the fifteenth week before you're due. But you'll probably want to think about telling them soon, particularly as you're legally entitled to time off for antenatal appointments and you'll probably be showing soon anyway. Your employer also has other obligations to protect your health, so if this is something you're concerned about then make sure you know your rights.

You & your partner
Once your partner has seen your little baby on the screen you may find it all (finally!) becomes a little more real for him, and he'll have a better idea of why you've been so tired recently. If you've been off sex during your first trimester you may find that your interest returns in this second trimester, and many women find pregnancy sex very pleasurable. But this isn't true for everyone, and you may simply not be interested, or your partner may have no interest - talking honestly about how you feel is usually the best way to create understanding.

The return of energy most women experience in their second trimester makes this a great time for taking a baby-free holiday with your partner/family, so if you're planning a trip we've got plenty of tips and information on travelling when pregnant.

Exercise is still very good for you and your baby, but As your body shape and weight begin to change more noticeably, you might want to think about making a few changes to the way you exercise. Some women may find that sports such as cycling and running are already becoming uncomfortable in the second trimester, others may have no problem for a while (if at all). It partly depends on when you put on weight, and how much. If you're beginning to find your usual form of exercise uncomfortable then you can switch to something lower impact like swimming, walking or hiking, water aerobics or yoga. However you choose to exercise, do listen to your body, rather than a stop-clock and be aware of the signs that you are overdoing it.

Sometime in the next month you should have your appointment for your 20-week scan confirmed - chase up with your midwife or hospital if you still haven't heard anything by week 17.

Month Five
This is an exciting month for expectant mums, as things begin to change more quickly. Sometime between weeks 17 and 20 is the usual time for mums to first feel their baby's movements in the womb (but first-timers may wait beyond 20 weeks whereas second-timers may feel movement earlier than this). You'll also have your 20-week scan this month, and should be able to get a good look at your growing baby to check that everything is developing as it should. In some areas you may be able to find out the sex of your baby at this scan, although if your baby's positioning isn't helpful the sonographer may not be able to get a good look. In some areas you won't be told the gender at your 20-week scan as a matter of policy (usually to protect unborn girls), so if you really want to know you'll have to book a private scan.

Body changes
From here on in you'll most likely be putting on weight more quickly than earlier. And as you get bigger it's not at all unusual for you to have days when you feel more fat than pregnant. Wearing flattering clothes will help (yes, you can get stylish maternity wear, even on a budget. You may also notice your feet and legs swelling these days, particularly if you're on your feet a lot, and some women even find that they need to go up a shoe size. Sitting with your feet up will help, as will avoiding being on your feet for long stretches.

You might also notice that you tire more quickly these days which is partly due to carrying more weight, but also down to the continuing physical demands of growing a baby, not to mention the fact that you're already pumping 20% more blood around your body than pre-pregnancy. Consequently around this time of pregnancy is a common time for women to suffer from low iron levels in the blood, making them anaemic and leaving them tired, washed out and even dizzy.

On the positive side, the extra blood supplied to your clitoris can make for particularly enjoyable sex in these weeks, and some women experience their first orgasms or multiple orgasms as a result. So if you're enjoying a resurgence of energy it's time to make the most of it!

Thinking ahead
By now you're probably growing used to the idea of being a mother and you can start to think about making things ready for after the birth and of course, thinking about what kind of birth you'd like, and where. One of the first things to do is to find yourself an antenatal course that suits your time schedule. These don't usually start until the beginning of the third trimester, but they can often get booked up quickly, so to make sure you get find a suitable class it's a good idea to find out the details this month.

As you find out more about labour and the birthing options in your area you'll probably form your own opinions on pain relief options and active birthing. You can then draw up a shortlist and visit the maternity units you're interested in, or speak to midwives, and ask lots of questions about how they approach childbirth. It's important that you're comfortable with the environment you select, and that you're confident that their approach sits well with your own concerns and priorities. You can also start drawing together your birthing preferences into an early version of your birth plan.

If you're working then you may be wondering exactly what your maternity rights are, as well as when you should inform your employer of when you want to take your leave.

Month Six
Body changes
As your baby bump becomes heavier you may find that yourself changing your posture to keep yourself comfortable, however, you do need to bear in mind that this can cause or exacerbate problems and try avoid problems by being particularly posture-aware, whether walking, sleeping. If you're already suffering from backache then follow our tips for finding relief. Flats or very low heels are the best shoe bet from here on in to help you avoid backache as well as to help you stay on your feet - have a read of our buyer's guide to pregnancy footwear if you're at a loss.

As balancing becomes more of a challenge, you may also be worried about the possibility of falling and about what affect this could have on your baby. Be reassured that your baby is well-protected inside your tummy and that most minor trips and stumbles are unlikely to do your baby any harm, but it does make sense to take care to avoid falls, and to take the time to make sure you are ok after a fall, no matter how small.

If you are considered to be at a relatively higher risk of developing gestational diabetes you will be asked to take a glucose tolerance test, often sometime around the sixth month.

Music to her ears
You may have read or heard about the positive impact that listening to music can have on your baby's development. While the jury's still out on whether you can enhance your baby's IQ with a bit of Motzart or Bach, it is true that your baby can hear some sounds from outside the womb and once born may find these familiar sounds comforting, whether that's the sound of your and your family's voices, or the lilting tones of Norah Jones, Linkin Park or whatever your rocks your boat abd relaxes you.

Fetal development in the first trimester

These articles contain information on how your baby is growing in the womb week-by-week, advice on what to expect at your current stage of pregnancy and top tips on how to combat common problems such as morning sickness.

Fetal development week-by-week: 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27

When you become a member of ThinkBaby you are given the chance to receive these weekly Fetal Development updates as newsletters. Two easy steps are all it takes to sign up for the Fetal Development e-mails. After you have joined ThinkBaby visit the 'My Newsletter' page in your profile. Simply click on the box next to 'Fetal Development newsletters' and then visit the 'My Baby' page and select the date your baby is due.

Alternatively, if you don't want to receive this information straight to your inbox, you can read them all here at your own leisure.

Once your baby is born you can choose to receive monthly Baby Development newsletters in the same way.

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