Often referred to as the “sweet spot,” your second trimester is when most pregnant women feel most comfortable. It is an exciting time when the dust has settled, and the physical symptoms have likely eased up a bit. People probably know that you’re pregnant by now and are excited to celebrate your news. At the same time, most of the most demanding work of building a baby is already done—the placenta is fully formed, and the baby has all its vital organs. Now they need to grow and mature in preparation for eventual life outside the womb1.
While most of the second trimester is more fun physically than the first, some not-so-fun things may happen in your body. Things you didn’t even know were pregnancy-related, like bleeding gums, nosebleeds, and skin discoloration. Maybe you are wondering if you should be feeling more symptoms at this point, or perhaps you are simply looking for what to expect during the second trimester. Well, we’ve got you covered.
You know you’re in your second trimester when:
You didn’t realize how bad you felt until you started to feel better
Some women’s nausea and fatigue persist throughout pregnancy, but most women report relief from these symptoms upon entering the second trimester. If you had gotten used to feeling sick and tired all the time, you might have forgotten what it feels like to feel somewhat normal. You look back at just a few weeks ago when you could not leave the couch or the toilet and marvel at how far you have come!
You don’t know whether to hide or accentuate your bump
By the middle of the second trimester, you likely have at least a little bump to show for your pregnancy. It’s more than just bloat by now. However, it may not be huge yet, and deciding whether to dress it up or down can be challenging. Wear what makes you feel physically and emotionally comfortable, and there will be no hiding it soon, no matter what.
You start to feel the baby move
Your baby has been moving around inside you since way before you were able to feel it. I remember during my 12-week scan seeing my baby do backflips on the screen and feeling shocked that I couldn’t feel what looked like huge movements. However, the baby was still so tiny. In the middle of the second trimester, the baby is large and strong enough that you should start to feel those wiggles and kicks. This is called “quickening” and happens around 18 weeks of pregnancy on average2. Some second-time moms and beyond feel quickening much earlier because they know what it feels like. Feeling the baby moving inside you uncontrollably is a weird and exciting feeling.
It’s time to buy maternity clothes
The days of squeezing into your largest pair of jeans are rapidly ending. Even the hair tie through the buttonhole trick is barely cutting it anymore. As your belly grows, you will find pants that fit you even last week may be too tight now. While you may be able to stick to flowy dresses or leggings for a bit longer, it may be time to invest in at least a few maternity pieces. The options have drastically improved in the last few years, with many stores offering maternity lines. Start with a few staples, see what cuts and fits are comfortable for you, and then go from there.
You finally feel ready to announce your pregnancy to the world
There is no perfect or right time to share the news of your pregnancy with friends, family, and coworkers. Still, many people feel comfortable waiting until the beginning of the second trimester when ultrasounds and tests have shown that the pregnancy is healthy and viable. After all, the chance of miscarriage drops dramatically in the second trimester, so many women feel “safer” sharing their exciting news3. I could never wait this long to share with those close to me. However, I did wait to post on social media and tell my work colleagues until I felt more comfortable and positive.
You tell yourself you have the third trimester to get everything ready
Pregnancy is a long 40 weeks; the second trimester can feel early to prepare your house and life for the new baby. Maybe your pregnancy still doesn’t feel quite real, or perhaps you don’t have the energy or time right now to invest in preparing for your little one. After all, procrastinating is easy when you still have another trimester ahead of you. Try to complete little tasks while you have the energy and your belly is not yet huge and in the way. Also, remember that even once the baby arrives, not everything has to be ready on day one. I felt a lot of pressure to have a picture-perfect nursery set up the day we brought my daughter home. But then she did not even sleep there for the first six months!
You get excited to hear your baby’s heartbeat
Your baby is now big enough that you can hear the heartbeat with the doppler. Your doctor will likely monitor this at every visit; it never gets old for most moms-to-be. Hearing your little one’s heartbeat galloping away is exciting and reassuring that they are healthy and growing. Some moms (me included) even choose to buy an at-home doppler for easy listening whenever the mood strikes. However, this can worsen anxiety when your wiggly little one evades the doppler, and you can’t find the heartbeat immediately.
You have sudden stabbing feelings in your abdomen
This is called round ligament pain, a simple growing or stretching pain related to the expansion of the uterus, especially in the second trimester4. The round ligaments suspend your uterus on both sides within your abdomen. Many women report sharp pains, aches, or cramps in this area. Sudden movements such as jerking, sneezing, or laughing can cause tugging on the round ligaments and, therefore, this pain. You can try to prevent it by moving more smoothly and slowly and wearing a belly band, but it is not always preventable and usually only lasts a few seconds.
You pee a little when you laugh or sneeze
As your baby grows and pressure in your abdomen and bladder increases, some women experience urinary incontinence. Your bladder has less room to hold fluid during pregnancy, so you may feel the need to pee more often and leak urine between bathroom trips. Leaking urine can happen especially under acute physical stress or pressure, like when laughing, sneezing, or exercising. The good news is that the pressure is relieved nearly immediately upon giving birth, but the bad news is that childbirth can cause new incontinence issues. Usually, clears up within a year of giving birth5.
You’ve gone up a bra size or two
The breast tenderness you likely experienced in the first trimester has subsided somewhat by now. However, your breasts continue to grow and mature throughout pregnancy as they prepare for breastfeeding6. While for some women, the extra cleavage is a welcome change, for others, it can feel excessive, heavy, or uncomfortable. Invest in larger, more comfortable bras as needed. Remember that cup size can change throughout pregnancy and postpartum, so do not stock up too much on one particular size. I found it most comfortable to wear nursing bras throughout most of the pregnancy, and it can’t hurt to find your favorites before your breastfeeding days even begin.
Your belly button is about to pop
Not every woman’s belly button pops during pregnancy, but many do. The pressure inside the abdomen can push a navel that is usually an “innie” into an “outie.”7 Even if your belly button hasn’t popped, it has likely gotten shallower as your abdomen stretches to accommodate your growing baby. Don’t worry—your belly button will likely return to its pre-pregnancy state after delivery.
You’ve developed some stretch marks
Although they can be uncomfortable, itchy, and might make you self-conscious, stretch marks do not cause any harm to you or your baby. During periods of rapid growth, the skin does not have time to regenerate quickly enough and tears. This tearing leaves scars behind that progress from pink to red or purple, and eventually to silver. While stretch marks never totally go away, they do fade over time. Feeling frustrated with some of the aesthetic changes pregnancy does to your body can be easy. Remember that you are growing a new little love of your life, and having a few scars to show for it is not the worst thing.
You’re finding other weird skin changes
Often called the “mask of pregnancy,” melasma is a skin condition in which women develop brown or gray patches of skin, usually on their face, in response to pregnancy hormones. Although you may find it unsightly or embarrassing, it is benign and typically resolves on its own. Avoiding the intense sun and wearing high-SPF sunscreen can help to prevent melasma8.
Another common site of skin darkening is the forming of a vertical line from the pubic bone up to the belly button. Called the linea nigra, the exact cause and purpose are unknown9. The reason for the development of this line might be placental hormones, which are also thought to cause the darkening of the nipples and areola.
You bleed more easily
During early pregnancy, your body makes extra blood to fuel the pregnancy and prepare for blood loss in childbirth10. By the second trimester, this extra blood, in combination with pregnancy hormones, can cause more sensitive mucous membranes. Even gently brushing your teeth can cause your gums to bleed, and a simple COVID test might cause a nosebleed. If the bleeding stops within a few minutes under pressure, it is not a cause for concern. The increased blood volume can also contribute to congestion.
You’re leaking milk from your nipples
Some women can experience a whitish yellow discharge from their breasts starting in the second trimester. This discharge is colostrum, an early form of breastmilk11. It signifies that your breasts are preparing to feed your little one. If you aren’t leaking, this is no indication of later breastfeeding success.
Sharp leg cramps wake you up at night
Charlie horses, or calf muscle cramps, are common in pregnancy, though no one knows why. Leg cramps often strike at night or first thing in the morning, so experts recommend gently stretching your calves before bed. Hydration and light physical activity during the day may also help12. They usually subside after delivery.
You have your anatomy scan scheduled
The anatomy scan is a detailed look at all your baby’s organs and structures. It typically takes place between weeks 18 through 22 of pregnancy. The ultrasound technician or doctor will also look at your placenta, ovaries, and cervix to ensure all appear healthy. This can sometimes be the last ultrasound of pregnancy, and you can breathe a huge sigh of relief to check off this box.
You’re planning your gender reveal
Another perk to the anatomy scan is that you will look at the baby’s genitals, revealing their sex. While you can ask your provider to keep it a secret, many parents look forward to learning this information — if they didn’t already learn it in their first trimester through a blood test. It can help you plan names, décor, and more. It is also exciting news to share with family and friends. Whether you decide to find out your baby’s gender or wait, your doctor will know it. Be sure to let them know if you want to keep it a surprise.
The second trimester has many exciting milestones, from dressing with your new bump to the anatomy scan to knowing your baby could survive outside the womb with NICU support at just 24 weeks. Despite some weird cosmetic symptoms you may be developing, many pregnant women physically feel their best in the second trimester. While sometimes the annoying physical symptoms return in the third trimester, enjoy your newfound energy and the resolved nausea for the time being. The third trimester and delivery day will be here before you know it.