I’m already well into the third trimester now, and I can’t believe it! (I wrote this post several weeks ago, when the second trimester was nice and fresh in my mind, but am just getting around to posting it now.) Time moved slowly at the beginning of my pregnancy, but seems to have been gradually picking up speed. Our little girl is due in just 6 weeks, and of course, she could come before then, too! With our December 23rd due date I’m hoping she’ll arrive a few days before Christmas so we can avoid spending the holidays in the hospital, but of course, she’ll come when she’s ready. Whenever that is will be the very best time.
My second trimester overall was a lot smoother and lower stress than the first. It began around when we got back from our honeymoon in mid-June. The day after we got back we had our first appointment with our midwife (we continued seeing the reproductive endocrinologist who had done our fertility testing for the whole first trimester–read all about our fertility journey here). Our midwife is low key but very experienced, and never asks or worries about my weight, which I love. By partway through the second trimester I’d already gained the upper limit of what’s recommended for the whole pregnancy (and I started off a bit overweight, too). When I brought up my concerns our midwife asked if I’d lost a lot of weight in the year or so before I became pregnant. Indeed I had–I lost between 20 and 25 pounds while I was working to increase my fertility. She said she’s noticed that when women lose a significant amount of weight right before conceiving, they tend to gain all of it right back once they’re pregnant, but that it isn’t usually a problem.
Second Trimester Ultrasounds
At our first midwife appointment, we had an ultrasound done to do a nuchal transparency screen, which measures a space at the back of the baby’s neck, the size of which is correlated with the likelihood of the baby having Down’s syndrome and certain other genetic issues. Everything looked good!
Between 15 and 16 weeks we had a quick gender screen ultrasound. My midwife’s office offers this for free anytime after 15 weeks. I was so excited when I found out we were having a girl! Ben was hoping for a boy but quickly got really excited about our girl. (He’s been doing tons of research into baby gear, refinishing a toy chest and dresser/changing table for her, and making frequent trips to the used book store for baby books. It’s pretty adorable!) We actually saw her peeing during the ultrasound, which was crazy. It looked like little fireworks spraying out! It’s amazing how early many bodily functions start up in the womb.
We had the anatomy ultrasound at 20 weeks. This one took a lot longer, in part because baby girl was in a strange position and refused to rearrange herself. She was head down with her bottom and legs blocking much of her face and chest. I was on the table for almost 40 minutes and was asked to flip from side to side to get her to move, but nothing worked. The ultrasound tech was able to check her basic anatomy, but couldn’t get all the brain and heart measurements she needed. Nothing seemed to be abnormal, though. She told me not to worry and that we would try again at 24 weeks.
At 24 weeks baby was in a better position and the ultrasound tech was quickly able to get all the necessary measurements. Everything looked normal! During that ultrasound we could see her opening and closing her mouth. Ben gets nervous during ultrasounds because he worries they’ll find something wrong (so he’s actually opted out of all of them since the gender screen), but I just love seeing our baby. It’s fun to feel her move inside my belly and see her movements on the screen at the same time!
Now that we’ve had a good anatomy ultrasound, I don’t think we’ll need another one until perhaps 36 weeks, to check that baby is head down and ready for a vaginal delivery.
Second Trimester Symptoms
If you read my first trimester recap, you probably remember that I was dealing with extreme fatigue pretty much every day. This did not evaporate right at 14 weeks like I was hoping it would. I remember someone at my prenatal yoga class asking, “Does it feel great to have your energy back?” when I was around 15 or 16 weeks, and I wanted to bite her head off because my energy was not back. It finally returned around 17-18 weeks. I don’t think I’ve ever returned to my pre-pregnancy energy levels, but things got a lot better. It’s been such a relief not to be exhausted all the time and need a nap every day! I’ve still napped some days, but have been feeling so much more like my normal self.
Does this mean I’ve been exercising more? Not that much. I have been going to prenatal yoga pretty religiously every Wednesday night (I’d go more but there’s only that one class!). I love it and always feel so good after bonding and stretching with other expectant mamas. I also try to go for quick walks several times a week, but have not been as good about this as I’d like to be.
One thing that has gotten much worse during the second trimester has been the heartburn. I now get pretty bad heartburn almost every single night unless I take something (I’ve been taking Zantac 75 mg once a day in the evening). I wanted to make it through my pregnancy without taking any medications, even OTC ones, but this heartburn is just too much. My midwife gave me a list of several heartburn medications that are safe during pregnancy, and the Zantac has been a huge help. It’s still so weird to me to suffer from heartburn because it’s something I’d had maybe one or two times max in my life before becoming pregnant! I kind of scoffed internally when other people complained about it because I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, but now I know better. Bad heartburn will knock you out just as much as a bad migraine or bad period cramps!
I tried several natural heartburn remedies–lemon water, apple cider vinegar, ginger candies–and none of them worked for me. I also sleep on an incline every single night, at least for the first half of the night. I have a crazy setup with a wedge pillow and two other pillows arranged on top of it so that my shoulders, neck, and head are elevated. That definitely helps, but is not enough in and of itself. One nice side effect of sleeping on the incline, though, is that my hips are not as achy in the morning as they are if I sleep flat! I’m not sure exactly why that is, but it’s great, because the hip pain started to become quite uncomfortable in the mornings somewhere around the middle of the second trimester.
Speaking of sleep, I am lucky and have been sleeping pretty well (except for one terrible week that I’ll discuss below!). I’ve always been a side sleeper, so it isn’t hard for me to avoid sleeping on my back or stomach. During pregnancy it’s apparently optimal to sleep on your left side to facilitate circulation, but I usually prefer to sleep on my right. In fact, during the second trimester, I noticed that when I turned onto my left side, I could feel my heartbeat very strongly. This is uncomfortable, and it evens seems to me that it’s irregular at times. When I mentioned this to my midwife last month she said to keep an eye on it and she might refer me to a cardiologist at my next appointment. She said not to lie on my left side if I’m feeling that, though, so I’ve mostly been on my right.
I continued to be happily nausea-free throughout the second trimester. Nausea usually sticks to the first trimester anyway, but other common issues, like heartburn and constipation, tend to persist. Overall I cannot complain about constipation. In fact, pregnancy seems to have improved my digestion. I usually tend toward the looser end of the spectrum, so pregnancy’s tendency to firm things up a little landed me right at a happy medium. In fact, I usually show symptoms of lactose intolerance if I have a lot of dairy, but since becoming pregnant, I haven’t noticed a difference between avoiding dairy and eating lots of it. I’ve been taking advantage and enjoying plenty of ice cream, yogurt, and cheese to make sure the baby’s getting the calcium she needs.
I did have one really bad episode of constipation–I won’t go into detail, but it was worse than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. I think it was actually caused by eating a big bowl of chia seed pudding. I found a recipe for chia seed pudding in The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth (it’s my favorite pregnancy book, despite how that particular recipe affected me!) and decided to give it a try. Although chia seeds are known for helping to loosen things up, I later did more research and found they can also have the opposite effect, especially if you’re not used to eating them regularly and suddenly have a bunch. I will definitely be abstaining for the rest of my pregnancy, if not longer!
The major bump in my second trimester road was getting sick right at 23 weeks. One day I had a scratchy throat and the next day it was very sore, making it painful to swallow and yawn. I was also running a bit of a fever. It was the weekend, so I went to a walk-in clinic to get a strep test, which was negative. Over the next day or two a bad cough appeared. As if the coughing fits and painful throat were not enough, everything going on in that area seemed to open things up for my pregnancy heartburn to become much, much worse. Between those three things, I was up almost all night for three or four nights in a row, finally dozing off a bit sometime after two in the morning.
Up until this point I hadn’t taken any painkillers or other medications for more than six months, since I tried to avoid them while we were trying to conceive, too. I felt so terrible, though, that I ended up taking Tylenol for my sore throat and Zantac for my heartburn. Robitussin DM, which was the only cough medicine my midwife said I could have, did absolutely nothing, so I stuck with cough drops, which helped some. I ended up having to miss a whole week of work because I felt so terrible. I started taking elderberry syrup four times a day a few days in, which I think really helped. I was sick for a full week and still extra tired for three days after that, but feel it might have dragged on for two or more weeks without the elderberry! I hadn’t had a cough in a long time and don’t often get sick in general, so I think I’d forgotten how awful it can be. It’s definitely extra miserable when you’re pregnant, since you’re more uncomfortable and your medication options are so limited. Here’s hoping I can avoid getting sick again while pregnant!
Symptoms that have persisted from the first trimester include peeing all the time (in fact, I think this has gotten worse) and lots of vivid, sometimes disconcerting, dreams. I continue to have frequent dreams that people close to me are upset with me. I feel relieved when I wake up and realize no one is mad at me, and have gotten quite used to having these dreams. I figure it’s probably caused by anxiety over my changing role as I become a parent, and am not worried that these dreams reflect anything that will actually happen.
One great symptom of the second trimester has been getting to feel the baby move. I felt the first flutters right at 17 weeks, and since then she’s been moving pretty reliably almost all the time. Starting around 25 weeks her movements got really big, and can often be seen from the outside if you’re keeping an eye on my stomach. My midwife recommended starting kick counts at 28 weeks, but since our baby is such a mover and shaker, I thought I’d start early, around 24 weeks, so I could establish a pattern and see what’s normal for her. I feel her most on the left side of my abdomen, but occasionally feel her on the left and right sides at the same time. My theory is that she’s stretched out across my stomach with her feet on the left and her head on the right, and that she sometimes kicks and punches at the same time. Occasionally she kicks or punches my bladder, which is not painful but is definitely uncomfortable!
Doing kick counts is simple: just pick a time of day when baby is active, wait for the first kick, then count kicks until you get to 10 and time how long it takes. You should feel 10 movements in two hours or less, but it’s usually half an hour or less. For me, I often get ten movements in about ten minutes. If you don’t feel ten movements in two hours or if there is any decrease in movement from what’s normal for your baby, you’re supposed to get in touch with your provider right away. This can help prevent stillbirth because babies often start moving less a few days before that actually happens. I use the free app Count the Kicks from countthekicks.org. It’s nothing fancy but it makes counting kicks easy! I usually count in the late evening, sometime between 8 and 10 pm. I enjoy doing it and find it’s a nice time to just think about my baby and sometimes even talk to her a little. By the end of the second trimester babies can hear lots of sounds and recognize their mama’s voices!
That’s a wrap for the second trimester! As always, I’m happy to answer questions and would love to hear how your second trimester went or is going. Thanks for sticking it out through this whole long post!
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