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Pregnancy: Second trimester changes and challenges

A new chapter in your pregnancy begins.

Welcome to your second trimester.

The coming weeks may bring a relatively peaceful period. First trimester woes like nausea should be easing. You will also likely find yourself feeling more energetic than in previous weeks.

Still, you may be surprised by what is in store as your pregnancy progresses. Here's a look at some possible changes and challenges you might face—and the best ways to cope.

Heartburn. If you've been feeling the burn, you can thank those pregnancy hormones. Hormones cause changes that make your food digest more slowly. In addition, they relax the valve between the stomach and the esophagus. That means that food and acid can reflux more easily.

Eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day may help ease heartburn. Eat slowly, and avoid greasy or fried foods. Talk to your doctor about taking an antacid as well.

Backaches. This is one of the most common problems for pregnant women, reports the March of Dimes. Extra weight and changing posture can put the strain and the pain in your back, but a number of steps can help. Try:

  • Wearing low-heeled shoes that have good arch support.
  • Avoiding lifting heavy items, standing for a long time, or a lot of bending or reaching.
  • Sleeping on a firm mattress. Sleep on your side and tuck a pillow between your legs for support.
  • Getting a little extra support from maternity pants with wide elastic bands that cradle your tummy.
  • Using a heating pad, hot water bottle or cold compress to ease the ache.

Leg cramps. You might find your sleep sometimes interrupted by the unpleasant sensation of a leg cramp. These are more common in the second and third trimesters and may be caused by:

  • Changes in blood circulation.
  • Extra pregnancy weight putting stress on your leg muscles.
  • Pressure on the nerves and blood vessels to the legs.

Whatever the cause, those cramps can be a big pain. You may be able to prevent them, says the March of Dimes, by stretching your legs before going to bed. Drink plenty of fluids to stay well hydrated during the day. And get regular exercise (with your doctor's OK).

If you get a cramp, try:

  • Straightening your leg heel-first and wiggling your toes (but don't point them).
  • Gently massaging the muscle or applying heat with a warm towel or hot water bottle.
  • Walking for a few minutes, if you can.

Abdominal pain or cramping. There are several reasons you might have abdominal discomfort in the upcoming weeks:

  • Muscles and ligaments that support the uterus are being stretched. This causes aching or sharp pains.
  • Irregular contractions, called Braxton Hicks contractions (or false labor), can occur off and on and are sometimes painful.
  • The pressure of your growing uterus can cause discomfort.

Resting and relaxing when you feel the pain can help ease the problem. However, according to the March of Dimes, you should call your doctor if you have:

  • Severe abdominal pain.
  • Contractions that happen every 10 minutes or less.
  • Cramping that feels like your period.
  • Pelvic pressure that feels like the baby is pushing down.

These can be signs of premature labor.

Stretch marks. About 90% of pregnant women get stretch marks. These streaks can range in color from pink or red to dark brown, depending on your skin color, reports the Office on Women's Health. You can use lotion to keep skin supple and moisturized. But there really isn't anything you can do to prevent stretch marks. Fortunately, stretch marks usually fade in time and will be less noticeable.

Worth it all

All these changes and symptoms may start to sound like a laundry list of problems. But keep in mind that virtually all of them are temporary. And it's more than worth it when you finally get to hold your baby in your arms.

As always, if you are worried or have questions about any changes you experience, talk to your doctor.

Reviewed 4/5/2023

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