Months 4 through 6 of pregnancy should be relatively low-maintenance. The emotional rollercoaster settles, nausea decreases, and sex drive returns. Most exciting of all, you’ll start to feel Baby’s first movements.
Second trimester symptoms are generally very tame, and most of the bothersome ones are overshadowed by exciting signs of new life. A few pesky symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath: The uterus continues to grow and might put some pressure on your lungs so that even basic activities leave you breathless. This reduction in airflow is totally normal, but talk to your healthcare provider if you feel like you’re constantly wheezing, or if the difficulty breathing has a very quick onset.
- Stretch marks: Your ever-changing shape might cause you to develop some pink, rigid lines on your skin, but they’ll fade and become less noticeable as your skin adjusts back to your pre-pregnant size. You should let your healthcare provider know if you have marks that looks like stretch marks, but are itchy as it could be a sign of PUPPPS.
- Vivid dreams: Every mom has some pre-baby jitters, and these often translate into recurring nightmares or waking up in a cold sweat. Dreaming about some not-so-pleasant things is pretty common, but nothing to worry about. It’s normal to get nervous about the pending arrival of your new baby, but staying healthy and well rested is the best safeguard against potential problems.
- Weak contractions: Your body is basically training for delivering Baby and preparing your uterus for labor by building up its strength. The contractions are unpredictable, but they shouldn’t be painful or frequent. If this is not the case, you may want to call your healthcare provider because it could be a sign of early labor.
- Dizziness: The second trimester usually makes your blood pressure drop as your vessels expand. This can leave you lightheaded or dizzy, so make sure you stay hydrated and feel free to lie on your side to get your BP up.
Healthcare provider appointments
Second trimester healthcare provider visits, which should take place about every 4 weeks, are still important for tracking your weight, blood pressure, and discussing symptoms. But more focus will be on Baby’s growth by assessing heartbeat and movement to make sure he or she is progressing well.
Your healthcare provider will take measurements of your stomach from the top of the uterus to the base of your pelvis, which give a good idea of Baby’s changing size. Perhaps the most exciting part of second trimester visits is the opportunity to hear their heartbeat through a high-tech stethoscope or a doppler instrument to monitor them). These tools also help to hear Baby’s overall movement, which should be very apparent through kicking around 20 weeks.
Even though delivery is still a few months away, your healthcare provider will also take this time to talk to you about childbirth classes and give you information about signs of premature labor. Don’t hesitate to tell your healthcare provider about any physical or emotional concerns, since they can offer helpful counseling on even the most personal issues.
Your standard blood and urine tests will carry over to the second trimester to check your levels of glucose and certain proteins. You will also have the option to test Baby for a specific set of diseases by withdrawing samples containing fetal cells. These procedures include:
- Multiple marker screening: Alpha-fetoprotein, which is secreted by the fetus, can be a sign of Down syndrome or spina bifida if it is present at very high levels. This can be detected with a simple blood draw, and most women undergo the screening. An abnormal result, which occurs in about 4% of women, could be a false positive, so your healthcare provider will perform an ultrasound to confirm a genetic defect.
- Glucose test: Glucose levels in a mom’s blood are a good indicator of gestational diabetes, which could lead to significant risks for you and Baby. This is also detected in a comprehensive blood test.
- Amniocentesis: This test is optional and aimed toward women over 35 or those who are susceptible to genetic disorders. By inserting a needle into the uterus, your healthcare provider will withdraw a sample of amniotic fluid, which can help to diagnose chromosomal abnormalities and fetal infections.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Second trimester pregnancy: What to expect.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 5/15/2014. Web.
- “Body changes and discomforts.” Womenshealth.gov. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 9/27/2010. Web.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Prenatal testing: Is it right for you?.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 8/22/2015. Web.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Prenatal testing: Quick guide to common tests.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 8/8/2015. Web.
- “Preterm labor.” March of Dimes. March of Dimes, n.d. Web.