Your second trimester

You may be pleased to know that, from 13 weeks, your body might begin to bounce back from some of the things you were experiencing in your first trimester. For many women, feelings of nausea and anxiety can subside which is why it’s also known as the ‘golden trimester’. But although you or your partner may feel better in some ways, there are many new things that will happen in this period as you get closer to meeting your little one.

You’ve now settled into the idea of creating a baby, and whether you’re excited or still a bit anxious, there are some things that you can be aware of and prepare for, so we’ve put together some of the changes that you may experience in weeks 13-28, along with some tips on things you can do to make this time a little bit easier.

Don’t forget to check out our posts on your first trimester and second trimester.

Pregnant lady in hospital having scan


Physical changes

  • You’ll continue to grow, as your baby and bump get bigger.
  • You may have more energy than you did in your first trimester.
  • Increased blood flow can lead to an increased sex drive! Remember, it’s perfectly safe to have sex at this time.
  • Cravings, frequent urination, bloating, constipation, heartburn, swollen feet, etc. will continue.
  • You’ll gain 1-2 pounds a week.
  • You may experience pains in your stomach which are normal – they’re caused by the stretching of your womb. If you feel intense cramps, or they're coupled with bleeding, discharge, fatigue, shoulder pain or discomfort when pooing or weeing, you should contact your midwife.
  • Leaking nipples can start as early as 14 weeks – try breast pads if they are leaving stains on clothes.
  • Your skin may feel itchy where your bump and boobs are growing.
  • You are more prone to thrush and nosebleeds which are generally normal.
  • Varicose veins and stretch marks can appear.
  • You may experience forgetfulness (aka baby brain) due to having less oxygen in your blood.
  • A dark vertical line may appear on your belly. This is called the linea nigra and normally goes away after giving birth.
  • Vaginal discharge is normal, but contact your midwife if it smells or is a yellow or green colour.
  • You may experience Braxton Hicks contractions which are irregular and milder than real contractions – they can sometimes be uncomfortable but it’s just your body’s way of preparing for the birthing process.

What’s going on inside?

  • Week 13 – your baby weighs about 25g
  • Week 14 – they’re the size of a lemon
  • Week 15 – they might be able to hear your voice! Try talking to them or playing music
  • Week 16 – they’re the size of an avocado and you may start to feel them move!
  • Week 17 – cartilage is turning into bone and they’re growing stronger
  • Week 18 – they’re as long as a banana
  • Week 19 – they can hear outside the womb and might respond to loud noises
  • Week 20 – their hair is starting to grow
  • Week 21 – they’re as long as a carrot and hair is growing even thicker
  • Week 22 – their taste buds are developing – what you eat may affect the flavours they like
  • Week 23 – they’ll be moving around lots and you may feel them kick
  • Week 24 – they’re the size of a papaya
  • Week 25 – they weigh about 1 ½ pounds, and eyelashes and fingernails have appeared
  • Week 26 – they’re the size of a swede
  • Week 27 – they might get the hiccups and you may feel these little movements!
  • Week 28 – they’re the size of an aubergine and can produce tears

Did you know: a baby at 24 weeks is seen in the UK as ‘viable’, meaning they have a chance of survival if they’re born at this stage, but they would need a lot of neonatal help. Up to 35% of babies born at 23 weeks survive, and this increases to a 50-70% at 24-25 weeks and 90% at 26-27 weeks.

Pregnant couple with hands on bump

Emotional changes

  • Past 12 weeks, the chance of miscarriage reduces to around 1-5%, so for many parents, anxieties over miscarriages often ease off.
  • If you still feel very anxious or unhappy, you may be the 1 in 5 women or 1 in 10 men who suffer from mental health issues during or after pregnancy. You should contact your healthcare professional if negative thoughts are not subsiding.
  • The pressures of pregnancy, work, home life, etc. may lead to increased stress. Make sure to take time for yourself and talk to your friends, family, partner or midwife about how you’re feeling.
  • Although pregnancy can bring couples closer, you may feel a strain on your relationship for many reasons. As your stomach grows, sex positions may become more difficult, or if there are feelings of anxiety or fatigue, you may just not feel like doing it. Worries about the future, money, work, home choices, etc. can lead to tension and cause arguments. Make sure to be open and keep communicating, try date nights and doing things you enjoy together, and ask for help from friends or family members if you need it.
  • You may experience feelings of loneliness, especially if you’re a single parent. Joining antenatal or exercise classes, or joining discussions in online forums can help you to meet people in similar situations.

Did you know: weird, vivid dreams are common due to hormonal changes. They may make you feel anxious, but dreaming can help you to deal with your emotions. Many pregnant women dream of sex, talking animals and (of course) babies.

Difficult issues

Pregnancy anxieties are normal, and there are risk factors with every pregnancy – creating another life is a huge thing, so it’s important to be prepared for all eventualities, good or bad.

Anomaly scan

  • At your scan that happens at around 20 weeks, you may find out that there are complications with your pregnancy. Around 5% of pregnancies will show an anomaly, and they can include open spina bifida, cleft lip, serious cardiac abnormalities and more.
  • In some cases, this scan will show that the baby may need to be operated on after they’re born, but in a small number of more extreme cases, there may be no treatment and the baby may die during pregnancy or soon after they’re born.
  • If you find that there are any problems with your baby, you do not need to feel alone – your midwife can refer you to specialist doctors and support groups. Depending on the severity of the anomaly, you may choose to terminate your pregnancy at this point which can be heart breaking. Antenatal Results and Choices provide information, a helpline and a forum for people in this difficult situation.

Other complications

  • Although some pain is normal as your womb stretches, you should still look out for unusual or intense cramps or back pain, pelvic pressure, severe pain that doesn’t go away or pain when weeing.
  • Pre-eclampsia can occur from around 20 weeks – look out for pain in the upper stomach, along with swelling of the face, hands or feet, severe headaches, vision problems and vomiting..
  • Pelvic Girdle Pain affects 1 in 5 pregnant women and causes pain and stiffness in the pelvic joints. If you feel that you have this, contact your midwife as it can be treated.
  • Risk of miscarriage is much lower (1-5%) but it can still occur, and is usually caused by problems with the uterus, the cervix opening too soon, autoimmune diseases or abnormalities in the baby’s chromosomes. This can be devastating  but you shouldn’t suffer in silence – talk to your doctor about therapy options, or try associations to support you through this distressing time.


Pregnant lady on walk in the park

What to eat

  • Your nausea may subside around this time which means you may want to eat more.
  • You don’t need to increase your calorie intake during the second trimester, but you should make sure that you’re eating foods that are nutritious for both you and your baby.
  • Focus on foods with lots of protein, iron and calcium such as eggs, soya and tofu products, dark green vegetables, nuts and seeds, oranges, broccoli, yoghurt, cereal, cheese, chicken, etc.
  • Fibre-rich foods (fruits, vegetables and wholegrains) can help if you suffer from haemorrhoids.
  • If your blood tests show that you’re anaemic, you’ll be prescribed an iron supplement but you can also help by eating iron-rich foods such as eggs, oily fish, green leafy vegetables, beans, lentils, red meat, etc.
  • Drink lots of water, especially if you are suffering from constipation.
  • Limit caffeine to 2 cups of instant coffee (200mg of caffeine) a day at most.

Did you know: once your baby has its taste buds, it can taste what you eat through the amniotic fluid. A study found that babies of pregnant women who drank over a litre of carrot juice a week ate more carrots during weaning than other babies.

Things to avoid

  • Similar to your first trimester, you should still avoid alcohol and cigarettes, strong chemicals, raw, seared or rare foods, unpasteurised dairy, raw eggs, raw bean sprouts, high mercury fish or foods with lots of preservatives or chemicals.
  • Make sure salads are well washed and don’t eat the past their use-by date.
  • Try to avoid sleeping on your back – the weight of your uterus can press on the vena cava, a major blood vessel, that can disrupt blood flow to your baby and make you feel sick and dizzy. You should also avoid exercises done while lying on your back.
  • Don’t do any heavy lifting if you’re at risk of premature labour.

Well-being tips

  • Stay active. Continue the light exercise you started during your first trimester - try walking, swimming, yoga or light aerobics. Remember to avoid dangerous or contact sports such as skiing and football. If you’re used to running, it’s fine to continue with it at this stage.
  • Avoid lying on your back from week 16 as this can cause low blood pressure and dizziness.
  • Continue with your pelvic floor exercises.
  • If the skin on your bump is itchy, try massaging moisturiser into it.
  • Increased blood flow can make you feel hotter than usual – keep hydrated and wear cool, loose fitted clothing
  • Sleep may become difficult, so create a sleep sanctuary – use a fan, get some extra pillows or a pregnancy pillow and practice sleeping on your left side as you will need to sleep in this position from 28 weeks. Check out our blog post on sleep during pregnancy for more.

Did you know: most airlines will let you fly up to 28 weeks. Just make sure you consult your midwife or GP before, keep hydrated, wear flight socks and walk around the plane to prevent blood clots. You should also pack a copy of your hospital notes in case anything happens while you’re away and you need to see a doctor.

To do

  • You may want to start thinking about and making your birth plan, which includes plans for where you want to give birth, whether you will have a C-section, etc. You could book a visit to see the labour ward at your local hospital, or look into home births, etc.
  • As you grow, you may want to purchase some looser, elasticated maternity clothes.
  • At around 18-20 weeks, you should have an ultrasound scan which checks on the physical development of your baby - you may hear their heartbeat at this time! This is the moment when many partners start to see the pregnancy as ‘real’ and they can go through many emotional changes.
  • You’ll have another appointment at 25 weeks (or 28 weeks if this is not your first pregnancy) where your midwife or doctor will measure your blood pressure, test your urine for protein and measure the size of your uterus.
  • You’ll be offered a whooping cough vaccination to protect your baby. You should have this between 16 and 32 weeks.
  • If you’re working, let your boss know you’re pregnant. You don’t have to tell them you’re pregnant until week 25, but consider telling them before if you have a strenuous job.
  • Find out what you are entitled to when it comes to work. You are allowed ‘reasonable’ paid time off work for appointments, scans and classes. Partners are also entitled to time off for two antenatal appointments. Pregnancy related illness does not count towards your sickness record and, if your work doesn’t offer sick pay, you can apply for statutory sick pay.
  • By week 25, make sure you give your MAT B1 form to your employer to ensure that you get maternity leave and pay, and let them know the date you wish to start your maternity leave.
  • You may want to join an antenatal class which can teach you about things such as breathing exercises and looking after your newborn, and you may also make friends! Both parents can attend these, so it can be great for your relationship.

For many, the second trimester is a more pleasant period between the other two, but nobody’s saying that it’s easy. There is so much going on inside mum’s body, and in the brains of both parents. If you’re having any worries, communication is key, and this is a great time to start preparing for the birth of your baby before the possible stress of the third trimester hits.

We hope we’ve helped you to understand things that can happen at this time in your exciting pregnancy journey, and we wish you all the best as you enter your third and final trimester.

Let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or tips on getting through the second trimester!

Infographic with info on the second trimester