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Dealing with the second trimester
Wendy Grace describes the challenges of the smoothest stage of pregnancy

The second trimester starts from the 14th week of pregnancy and continues until the 27th week.  During this time your baby will grow a lot, increasing in size from around 10cm to over 30cm. 

With your first trimester behind you, that morning (or should I say ‘all day’?) sickness should be beginning to pass.

 The good news is most ‘mums to be’ would describe this trimester as the smoothest. You will start to get some of your energy and your appetite back. 

Your chance of miscarriage significantly decreases, which is why people often wait until now to share their good news. 

During this trimester, you begin to look pregnant and rather than trying to hide your little one, you’re ready to show off your ever growing bump. It’s during this time stretch marks may start to appear, so make sure to moisturise twice a day with bio oil or a body butter to help lessen stretch marks. 

While you might not be running to the loo as much, you might begin to feel backaches and increasingly you might also start to experience heartburn, while as the baby grows and starts to put pressure on your lungs, you might experience shortness of breath. 

As for your baby, it is now fully formed – all they have to do now is to continue to grow.

The good news is that overall the second trimester is the easiest one. So use this time to look after yourself well, taking advantage of your returning appetite and energy. 

Eat well

With that queasy feeling passing, try to eat as healthy healthily as possible. Remember you are now eating for two and, at this stage, you just need an extra 200-300 calories per day. You might have found yourself, during the first trimester, not exactly nutritionally full – I survived on nuts and crackers! 

You might have even lost your appetite, but now that it has returned you need to nourish your baby and your body. What you eat is important for your baby’s nourishment and development. 

During your second trimester, it’s especially important to eat foods that are rich in calcium, magnesium and vitamin D. These nutrients will help your baby grow strong bones and teeth. It’s also beneficial to eat foods containing omega-3 oils, such as oily fish and flax seeds, which are vital for your baby’s brain development. 

It’s really important to eat lots of fruit and vegetables. Several studies have shown ‘mums to be’ who eat junk food while pregnant are more likely to have babies who will crave junk food, even into adulthood. 

Foods such as avocados are a great source of good fats, calcium and magnesium, while blueberries are a natural anti-inflammatory and will help boost circulation. Green vegetables, like spinach, are a great source of iron, vitamin D and folic acid. It’s really important to get plenty of protein and eat it combined with any sources of sugar, for example having a handful of nuts with your banana will help to regulate your blood sugar and will help to prevent energy highs and lows. 

Soups and stews

I found creating hearty, healthy soups and stews in advance and freezing portions was really helpful. I tried to start my day with a smoothie packing in kale, spinach, carrots and some fruit to get on the right track. 

In terms of overall weight gain in your pregnancy, you should put on around 11 to 16kg. Most women put on 0.5 to 2.25kg in the first trimester and then an average of 0.5kg a week throughout the remainder of the pregnancy. If you are putting on substantially more than this, you need to talk to your doctor. You might be at risk of gestational diabetes and should be tested for this.  

By week 20 your baby has developed taste buds and is already learning to prefer the food you eat, which should give you that extra motivation to order a side of green vegetables rather than chips!

Exercise

When it comes to exercise, the general rule of thumb is if you did it before you were pregnant (unless it was a high risk activity such as horse riding or a contact sport), you can safely continue. 

Always adhere to the talk test, where you are never so much out of breath you can’t hold a conversation. It’s very important to listen to your body – although I ran before pregnancy I just found it too difficult and began walking every day instead.  

If you find it hard to get out and exercise/walk, YouTube has hundreds of pre-natal workout videos.  You can try anything from aerobic dance workouts to pre-natal pilates that strengthens your core. There are also videos to suit your schedule with a variety of workouts from 10 minutes to an hour. 

The great thing about watching these videos is you can pause when you like and pick and choose the ones that work best for you and your level of fitness. 

Even though much of the time you might not feel like it, taking the recommended 30 minutes of exercise each day will really stand to you. During your pregnancy it will help your aches and pains feel less severe, your body will be better prepared for labour and after the baby arrives your recovery time will be quicker. 

Feeling

The really exciting thing is many women start to feel little kicks or flutters during the second trimester. Some describe it as like a small fish swimming across your belly. Other women describe it as feeling like little butterflies. 

By 18 weeks your baby will also begin to hear, as their ears have fully developed. Your baby will start to hear your voice and research shows that if you sing or play music to your baby from now on they may recognise the songs after they are born, so now is a great time to start learning some lullabies! 

Remember your hormones are in overdrive, so it is ok when you feel emotional for no apparent reason or have a strange outburst at something that wouldn’t usually upset you. Don’t be hard on yourself when your hormones seem to have a mind of their own. 

Pre-natal depression is only beginning to be recognised. It is estimated that approximately 10-20% of expectant mothers will experience it. It is important to find support to treat any anxiety you might be having. Pregnancy is an enormous life transition and it is totally natural to feel overwhelmed. If pre-natal depression is left unaddressed the pre-baby blues can have consequences for mum and baby. 

Several studies have linked unchecked depression and anxiety during pregnancy to higher rates of C-section, pre-eclampsia and babies with a lower birth weight.  If you feel you need help, be sure and seek the support of a counsellor. Make sure you are giving yourself adequate time and space to relax. 

Symptoms

A lot of women experience heartburn during the second trimester. Eat slowly and eat small meals frequently. Avoid spicy or fatty foods. Over the counter antacids are perfectly safe to take, but if your heartburn is really bad there is prescription medication available that is also safe to have prescribed for you. 

If you have swollen ankles, getting exercise will help decrease the fluid retention. It will also help if you put your feet up when you are sitting and sleep on your side at night. 

You might be finding it harder to get a good night’s sleep as you continue to grow. I found using an N-shaped pregnancy pillow really helps. This type of a pillow supports your back and separates your knees easing the pressure on your hips and ribs. Having a bath several times a week with epsom salts will help you relax and ease back pain. 

Now is a really important time to start doing your kegal exercises, at least three times a day – an app developed by the NHS called Squeezy can be very useful.  It’s also a good time to go on a babymoon, a short break for you and your partner to really enjoy some relaxing time together, while you take this time off maybe start discussing baby names, planning the nursery, etc. 

This trimester will go faster than you imagine, so enjoy all the incredible changes that are happening to you and your baby.