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Second trimester: What you need to know

What to expect in the second stage of pregnancy

Author Marie Louise
Categories   Second Trimester

The Edit

The second trimester brings further changes as your pregnancy evolves. You may now begin to feel a difference and to see a more obvious bump appearing. By now, the nausea has tended to subside and hopefully disappear altogether as your pregnancy progresses.

Most women will also generally feel less tired in the second trimester. It’s difficult to quantify/qualify changes in women during pregnancy as every woman is different. There are common changes and noticeable changes as well as uncommon ones.

What happens during the second trimester?

  • Foetal development – rapid growth of tissues and organs
  • Skin changes – darkening of the nipples or facial pigmentation
  • Hair and nails may thicken
  • Dizziness
  • Nose bleeds
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Feeling your baby move (foetal movement)
  • Braxton Hicks
  • Dental changes
  • Mid-pregnancy scan (anomaly scan)

Foetal development:

Whilst you are noticing changes in your own body, your developing baby has now evolved from an embryo to a foetus with rapid growth. Your baby will now start to move and kick more, especially towards the end of the second trimester. From now on, week by week, your baby will go through rapid changes. For example, urine starts to form, baby’s gender becomes more apparent, she/he will start to respond to your voice and your baby’s hair will be more established, with eyebrows and eyelashes looking well-formed and your baby will start to suck their thumb.

Skin changes:

It’s around this time that you may start to get the ‘you’re glowing’ comment, especially if your skin glows and is rosy during the ‘honeymoon’ second trimester. It’s also common for brown patches to start to show on your face (or inner thighs). These will usually fade and then disappear after birth. In the meantime, it’s best to use UV filter creams in the summer and avoid long periods of time in the sun. If you haven’t started using moisturiser for your bump, now is the time to start! Good quality, natural creams help nourish your skin, but they won’t stop you from getting stretch marks if they are going to appear. Creams may help to reduce any tighten-ing discomfort though.

Nasal problems:

The mucous membranes line delicate areas of the body and are lubricated. At this stage of pregnancy, the membranes can thicken. This can lead to stuffiness or there could be some bleeding. It’s a protective measure – annoying but a clever defence mechanism.

Vaginal discharge:

This is due to increased blood flow and hormones. Again, your body is protecting you by trying to prevent infection travelling from the vagina up to the uterus. The discharge is normal if it’s either clear or white and doesn’t smell. If the discharge smells, is very watery or is any other colour, report this to your midwife.

Braxton Hicks:

They are not true contractions like you will have in labour. They are the body’s way of preparing for the real thing – like practice contractions. I often tell mums about my brother being a musician and before his gig he will do sound checks - ‘mic check, one two…’ A bit like Braxton Hicks, they are preparing for the big day. They are described as a tightening, usually in one area. It’s not uncommon to experience them after exercise, intercourse or orgasm. The contractions of orgasm (and release of oxytocin) can set them off. There’s no need to worry that this will induce labour at this stage of your pregnancy.

Mid-pregnancy scan:

Also known as the ‘anomaly scan’, this is a detailed ultrasound screening carried out between weeks 18 and 21. The scan checks the physical development, but it doesn’t pick up everything. You can find out the sex of your baby at this scan too - that’s if they are willing to show you! Like the 12-week scan, it’s a black and white 2D image giving a side view of your baby. The scan is offered to everyone, but you don’t have to have it. If you have any questions about the scan, feel free to ask your midwife to clarify anything that you’re not sure about.


Linear nigra:

Translated, means ‘black line’. This vertical, darkish line is one of the most common skin changes, it will fade and then usually disappear after birth. Those hormones that darken your nipples can cause hyper-pigmentation to this line of skin from your belly button to your pelvis. It’s most likely there for the benefit of your baby as newborns have poor eyesight and ‘pointers’ can help them reach their food source.

Hair and nails:

In line with the ‘blooming’ theme, your hair may appear thicker and healthier. Your nails may also become thicker and grow faster. The changes are due to an increase in blood circulating volume and increased levels of the hormone oestrogen. Not all women have the same changes though, and it’s important to eat a well-balanced diet with lots of healthy fats to support your pregnancy too.

Foetal movement:

Your baby will be making movements with or without your knowledge. If you have experienced pregnancy before, it’s easier to recognise movement, especially if you are looking out for it. And the common time to notice foetal movements is anywhere from 16 to 24 weeks. It’s difficult to describe what the movements feel like, but it’s often described as ‘flutters/fluttering’ or ‘wind’ – it’s an exciting time! If you have not felt movement by 24 weeks, you will need to let your midwife know.


This is caused by the changes in circulation. You might sail through your pregnancy with little or no dizziness and mild spells are normal. If the dizziness is excessive and/or accompanied by other symptoms, let your health professional know. If you do get dizzy, be mindful of standing up too quickly after lying or sitting (especially for longer periods). Try to lay on your side rather than flat on your back too. Equally, if you stand still for long periods this too can cause dizziness or fainting.

Dental changes:

Poor diet and malnutrition can contribute to a decline in health of teeth and bones, especially in pregnancy. With access to vitamins and improved general health/diet in developing countries, we can help to protect our teeth and gums. Again, the thickening mucous membranes can cause problems with a build-up of plaque and bleeding gums known as pregnancy gingivitis. There are steps that you can take to prevent and deal with dental problems:

  • Regular visits to the dentist will allow them to spot or prevent problems and give advice.
  • Dental care is free during pregnancy and for a year after birth, so it’s a good time to get a check-up.
  • Taking extra special care of your teeth and gums with good oral hygiene.
  • Use a soft toothbrush, preferably with a small head, brushing gently.
  • Avoid sugary and/or acidic food and drinks between meals (use a straw to drink fresh fruit drinks like freshly squeezed orange juice etc).
  • If you have nausea that leads to vomiting, make sure you rinse your mouth out afterwards as the acid from your stomach is strong. Don’t brush your teeth until at least an hour after vomiting.
  • Avoid harsh mouthwashes with alcohol in them. If you have pregnancy gingivitis, try salt mouth rinses (if you can tolerate them). Put one teaspoon of salt in a glass with some warm water, rinse well and spit out the salty water.
  • Floss your teeth daily.

Read what to expect in your third trimester here.

Author Marie Louise

Marie Louise is an experienced Midwife, PTLLS adult educator and hypno-birthing teacher from the UK. She has travelled extensively to learn about midwifery in different cultures and has also practised in Australia. She runs ‘Modern Midwives Meetups’ which provide a safe space for midwives to share best practice and hear from experts in the maternity field. Marie Louise is a sought after expert and has most recently been invited to Parliament to discuss maternal mental health and maternity discrimination. She's also a communications partner for Child.Org, an equal opportunities charity for children and advises Cocoon Family Health, a perinatal mental health charity based in London.

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