Many women are delighted to reach the second trimester, during the 13th to the 28th weeks of pregnancy. Your baby bump may be starting to show and unpleasant symptoms like extreme fatigue and morning sickness may be going away.
Lots of women report that this is their favorite time of their pregnancy journey — it's even called the "golden period" by some people. With less nausea, better sleep, and more energy, who can blame them?
There are some easy tips to keep in mind when it comes to the do's and don'ts of the second trimester of pregnancy.
The short version? If you've been following your medical team's recommendations surrounding diet, exercise, and rest throughout your first trimester, keep up the good work.
Here are the most important things to keep in mind as you navigate the second trimester of your pregnancy.
Over the course of your second trimester, you'll have regular visits with your doctor. Usually, these happen about every four weeks.
During these visits, you can expect your doctor to check:
- Your baby's growth and measurements.
- Your baby's heartbeat using a Doppler instrument.
- Your baby's movement or kicks (after around week 18 or so).
Your doctor may also check if you're due to update any of your vaccinations.
You may also be offered some choices around prenatal testing including genetic testing, ultrasounds, and blood tests. Talk to your doctor about what the benefits and risks of these tests might be for you and your baby.
Your healthy diet can help provide you and your growing baby with all of the nutrients you need. During your second trimester of pregnancy, you may notice that your appetite has increased. Resist the urge to "eat for two," and prioritize getting plenty of healthy fruits, vegetables, and other important food groups. Experts agree that while your caloric need does go up in the second trimester, it only increases by around 340 calories — for example, an extra half sandwich and apple.
Some good choices to integrate into your diet include:
- Vegetables: Dark, leafy greens, carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and red bell peppers are high in vitamin A and potassium.
- Fruits: Melons, mangoes, apricots, oranges, bananas, and apples have lots of good fiber, are hydrating, and vitamin C.
- Dairy: Eating low-fat yogurt, drinking reduced-fat milk, and small amounts of cheese products provide calcium, potassium, and vitamins.
- Whole Grains: Many whole grains provide both iron and folic acid in addition to healthy fiber.
- Proteins: Beans, peas, seeds, nuts, low-mercury fish like trout and salmon, lean beef, lamb, pork, and tofu all provide important protein.
Some healthy and satisfying snack choices during the second trimester include:
- Smoothies with yogurt, fruit, and leafy greens.
- Raw nuts including almonds, pecans, walnuts, and cashews.
- Vegetables dipped in hummus.
- Fresh fruit.
Prenatal vitamins are different from everyday multivitamins. Your body's needs change when you're pregnant, and your growing baby has specific vitamin needs, too. Just like during the first trimester of your pregnancy, your body and your baby need these important vitamins.
Prenatal vitamins include all of the calcium, iron, zinc, and folate that you need. Folate is important because it helps to prevent some common and serious birth defects including spina bifida and anencephaly.
If you had a regular exercise habit before your pregnancy and through the first trimester, it's important to keep your level of activity up. The benefits of exercising through your second trimester of pregnancy — and beyond — include:
- Decreased stress level
- Balanced mood
- Reduced fatigue
- Reduced excess weight gain and gestational diabetes
- Improved sleep and minimized insomnia
- Reduced back pain
Some safe and healthy choices for exercise during your second trimester include:
- Jog or run (if you practiced this prior to pregnancy)
- Lift light weights
Hydration is important for everybody, whether you're pregnant or not. Staying hydrated throughout your pregnancy can help you prevent many conditions including headaches, dizziness, kidney stones, constipation, and even preterm labor.
How much water should you drink during the second trimester? Doctors recommend drinking between 8-12 cups of water each day.
Other hydrating choices include sparkling water, herbal tea, juices, soups, and many kinds of fruit. Avoid drinks with caffeine or lots of sugar.
If you weren't able to get a flu shot during your first trimester, now is the time.
The CDC recommends that all pregnant people get a flu shot — not a nasal spray version of the vaccine. Influenza can be harmful to a developing baby and can have serious impacts on a mother's heart and lungs during pregnancy. Get a flu shot during pregnancy as a safe and easy way to protect yourself and your baby.
Though you may not feel as exhausted as you did during the first trimester, it's still important to get as much high-quality sleep at night as you can — aim for 8-9 hours.
Additionally, setting aside time to nap or rest during the afternoon can be helpful, too. The key is to listen to your body, and rest when you feel like you need it.
Recommendations largely include the same overall tips for health throughout your first trimester of pregnancy: eat a healthy diet, drink plenty of water, exercise safely, and get plenty of sleep. During your second trimester, like through the first, some foods and drinks to activities and lifestyle choices are critical to avoid during pregnancy.
Keeping these recommendations in mind can help your pregnancy progress smoothly and keep you and your baby safe and healthy.
During your second trimester of pregnancy, your baby's brain and body develop quickly. Alcohol can cause serious damage to a baby's developing brain. There is no known safe amount of alcohol to consume during pregnancy.
Possible symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome include:
- Abnormal facial features
- Small head size
- Low body weight
- Poor coordination
- Poor memory
- Difficulty with attention
- Hyperactive behavior
- Learning disabilities
- Poor reasoning and judgment skills
- Sleep problems
- Vision or hearing problems
- Problems with heart, kidney, or other organs
Smoking during and after pregnancy puts you at an elevated risk for miscarriage. It also puts your baby at an increased risk of birth defects, premature birth, low birth weight, infant death, and learning disabilities. It's also considered one of the most significant risk factors for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Other controlled substances and drugs — including some kinds of prescription medications — can cause serious harm to your baby during pregnancy. Avoid all opioids and street drugs during all trimesters of your pregnancy. Before using any medication, confirm with your doctor or pharmacist that it is approved for safe use while you're pregnant.
While experts suggest cutting caffeine out of your diet entirely, many agree that small amounts are safe. Caffeine, found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and energy drinks, is a diuretic — it causes you to urinate more and makes you vulnerable to dehydration, It can also increase your heart rate or blood pressure, both of which could have a negative impact on your pregnant body.
The general consensus is that the less caffeine you consume, the better. Keeping your daily intake to around 150mg (the equivalent of one cup of brewed coffee or three cups of black or green tea) is generally believed to be safe.
Some foods are considered dangerous during the first trimester of pregnancy (and beyond). Experts recommend avoiding:
- Any form of unpasteurized dairy
- Processed meat (like hot dogs or lunch meat) unless thoroughly heated before eating
- Raw or undercooked seafood, eggs, or meat
- Cold pate or meat spreads
- Cold smoked seafood
- Unwashed fruits or vegetables
If you're ever unsure if a choice is safe or not at any point during your pregnancy, call your doctor to find out more.
Experts also recommend avoiding risky behavior during pregnancy including:
- Diet or try to lose weight. Restricting calories or exercising too much can harm your baby.
- Use hot tubs or saunas. If your core temperature gets too high, it can cause birth defects or a miscarriage.
- Clean your cat's litter box. Cat feces can carry a dangerous parasite that causes toxoplasmosis. (Don't worry — holding and petting your feline friend is perfectly safe.)
- Get tattoos or piercings. The risk of infection (including Hepatitis B or HIV) could affect your baby's health.
- Play rough contact sports. Activities that put you at increased risk of overheating or getting injured should be avoided. (Examples: "hot yoga," martial arts, horseback riding, hockey, boxing, soccer, basketball, off-road cycling, skiing, surfing, gymnastics, scuba diving, etc.)
Many pregnant people enjoy the second trimester very much. With nausea and fatigue in the rearview mirror, and not yet navigating the world with a fully pregnant belly, it can be quite enjoyable.
Keep up the habits that you developed in your first trimester — eat well, stay active, keep yourself hydrated, and avoid the foods, drinks, and sports that could be dangerous — and you will sail into your third and final trimester of a healthy pregnancy.
If you stay away from alcohol, smoking, drugs, and risky activities, you'll be more likely to enjoy a healthy pregnancy and baby. During your first trimester — or beyond — don't hesitate to ask your doctor any questions you have about what you should or shouldn't do while you're pregnant.