Second Trimester of Pregnancy

For many mums-to-be, the second trimester is the most enjoyable and comfortable phase of pregnancy. You’re now in that sweet spot where your morning sickness has most likely subsided, and your baby bump isn’t so big that it gets in the way or causes any aches. You may even experience a burst of energy! Read on to learn about foetal development in the second trimester and what’s in store for you during the coming weeks.

When Does the Second Trimester Start and How Long Is It?

The second trimester runs from 13 to 27 weeks of pregnancy, lasting 15 weeks or approximately 3 and a half months.

Your Baby’s Development in the Second Trimester

In the second trimester of pregnancy, the foetus’s development continues upon the foundation set in the first trimester. Your little one goes from being about the size of a large plum to that of a cauliflower, and this growth spurt will become more visible to the outside world as your belly becomes more prominent. Each week of pregnancy brings something new; here are some of the highlights of foetal development in the second trimester:

14 Weeks: Sucking and Swallowing

Around the time you’re 14 weeks pregnant, your little one may start practicing sucking and swallowing motions, possibly even sucking that thumb. As your foetus sucks, small amounts of amniotic fluid are swallowed. It goes through the stomach and kidneys before passing back into the amniotic fluid as urine.

16 Weeks: On the Move

Sometime between 16 and 24 weeks pregnant, you’ll start to feel your foetus move. Initially, it may feel like a tiny flutter in your belly as your little one rolls around or does flips in the amniotic sac. This feeling is called quickening. If this is your first pregnancy, it may take longer for you to detect the sensations of movement. Conversely, if this is your second pregnancy, you may recognise the signs of movement sooner. This is just one of the many ways a second pregnancy can be different from a first. Some mums-to-be notice the kicks and movements get stronger from around 19 weeks. In the second trimester, your little one has plenty of room in your belly to try somersaults, and your foetus will become more and more active until about 32 weeks. Then your little one’s level of movement will likely remain quite steady until you give birth as things get a little more cramped in your belly during the third trimester. If you notice foetal movement has slowed down or stopped call your midwife or doctor immediately.

20 Weeks: A Waxy Coating

By this week, the glands in your foetus’s skin have started producing a greasy substance called vernix. It covers your little one’s body and acts as a waterproof barrier protecting the skin from the amniotic fluid.

21 Weeks: Fine Hair and Eyebrows

Around this time, your foetus may grow tiny tufts of fine hair, with no pigment yet, on his head and eyebrows.

23 Weeks: Responding to Sounds

The ears are now fully developed, and your foetus may even move in response to the sound of your voice or a loud noise. This is an excellent time to start singing to your bump or simply talking to your little one about what you’re up to. You might also like to play some music.

26 Weeks: Eyes Wide Open

When you are about 26 weeks pregnant your little one could be starting to open and close his or her eyes, and will soon learn to blink. You won’t know your baby’s final eye colour until months after your baby’s birth, but they’re sure to set your heart racing no matter what colour they are.

Illustration of Foetal Development Week by Week

Click through the illustrations below for a visual representation of how your little one develops week to week during the second trimester:

foetal development

What’s in Store for You This Trimester

These are just some of the highlights and things to expect in the second trimester:

  • Meeting your baby bump. Although it’s different for every mum-to-be and can even be different from one pregnancy to the next, you might start showing early in this trimester. Be sure to show off those curves in some gorgeous maternity clothes.

  • Announcing your pregnancy. Although some people may have guessed already, some of your friends, family and colleagues will be none the wiser about the news that you're expecting. Check out these fun and creative pregnancy announcement card ideas and share your news when you feel ready.

  • Finding out your baby’s gender (if you want to). At approximately 20 weeks pregnant you'll be offered an ultrasound scan to check on the health of your foetus. During this scan your doctor will also be able to diagnose certain placental problems like placenta previa. Spoiler alert: if you want to, you can ask to find out your baby’s gender during this scan. Keep in mind, some hospital policies may prevent the gender being revealed, so ask your doctor or midwife beforehand if this is something you would like to know.

  • Having tests and check-ups. During the second trimester you’ll continue with your regular antenatal care. Check-ups may become more frequent if there are complications or your doctor wants to monitor you and your foetus’s health more closely. At these check-ups, your doctor may start to check your fundal height, which is the distance between your pubic bone and the top of your uterus. This measurement helps your doctor assess your foetus’s size and growth rate. If you are at risk for certain conditions, such as gestational diabetes, your doctor may recommend additional tests.

  • Throwing a gender reveal party. If you’d like to reveal your baby’s gender to family and friends at a special party, check out our guide to organising a great gender reveal. These parties are a great reason to get your loved ones together, and no one will ever forget that special gender reveal moment. If you’re stuck on how to actually make the big reveal, check out these gender reveal ideas for a baby boy and gender reveal ideas for a baby girl.

  • Getting a maternity bra fitting. This trimester your breasts may grow noticeably so don’t be surprised if you need to go up a cup size. It could be a good idea to get professionally fitted to ensure you wear a supportive, comfortable bra.

  • Experiencing an energy boost. During the second trimester, you may experience an extra burst of energy, which you can use in many ways! Begin or continue your exercise routine (though you'll want to check with your doctor first) with some walking, swimming or prenatal yoga. Start getting the nursery prepared and make a list of all the baby essentials you’ll need. You could even go on a babymoon! However you decide to use your extra energy, try not to overdo it and schedule time for rest as well.

  • Creating your registry. Although you still have plenty of time, now is a great time to start researching items for your baby shower registry. Don’t finalise your wish list without checking our list of registry must-haves first.

Second Trimester Symptoms

Here are just some of the symptoms you may experience during the second trimester:

  • Feeling faint. Hormonal shifts can cause changes in circulation, resulting in less blood flow and oxygen reaching your head. This can leave you feeling a little light-headed or dizzy. If you experience this, lie down on your side if you can. You might be able to help prevent dizzy spells by moving more slowly when you change positions or stand up. Above all, if you’re concerned about how you’re feeling, ask your doctor for advice.

  • Round ligament pain. If you experience pain or cramping in your groin area, chances are it's due to round ligament pain. As the uterus grows, the ligaments that hold it in place in your abdomen stretch, and this can cause pain. Putting your feet up and resting may help. Typically, round ligament pain is nothing to worry about, but if it becomes intense or doesn’t go away, contact your doctor.

  • Pelvic pain. Discomfort in the pelvic region is referred to as pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain or symphysis pubis dysfunction. It’s caused by stiff pelvic joints or the joints of the pelvis moving unevenly. Your doctor can diagnose this condition and can refer you to a physiotherapist for a professional treatment plan.

  • Skin pigment changes. During pregnancy, your body produces more melanin — the pigment that gives skin its colour — so your nipples may become darker and brown patches may appear on your face. You might also notice a dark line that runs from your pubic region to your belly button — this is called the linea nigra. These darker patches of skin tend to slowly fade after your baby is born.

  • Itchy skin and stretch marks. As your foetus grows and you gain pregnancy weight you may experience dry, itchy skin or develop stretch marks where the skin has stretched to accommodate this. There are no proven solutions for stretch marks, but a moisturising lotion may help soothe itchy skin.

  • Nosebleeds. Hormonal changes can cause more frequent nosebleeds during pregnancy, and you may also feel more congested than usual.

  • Feeling hot. This symptom may be caused by hormonal changes and an increase in blood supply to the skin. Wearing loose clothes and keeping the room cool with a fan or an air-conditioner can help.

  • Leg cramps. Some mums-to-be experience lower leg cramps that tend to strike at night. You can help keep these cramps at bay by doing regular exercise and stretching before bed.

  • Back pain. As your body slowly prepares for labour, the ligaments become softer and stretch out more. This can put strain your joints and cause lower back pain. Exercise and stretching may help relieve some of the discomfort. Avoid lifting heavy objects and use pillows to support your back when you lie down.

  • Constipation. Hormonal activity and your growing foetus pushing against your intestines can lead to you feeling blocked up. Drinking more water, eating more high-fibre foods (like vegetables) and getting regular exercise can help get things moving again.

  • Haemorrhoids. Also called piles, these enlarged veins in the rectum can develop during pregnancy because of the increased pressure in that area. Because haemorrhoids tend to get worse as the foetus grows bigger, treating them at the first sign of discomfort can help keep them under control later on. If you can, avoid standing for long periods of time and try warm baths to help relieve the pain. Preventing constipation is also important because the less you need to strain to pass a bowel movement (and the softer your stools), the better. If nothing works, ask your doctor about your treatment options.

  • Stomach pain. You may experience stomach pain during the second trimester. It’s usually nothing to worry about if it feels only mild and goes away when you change position, rest, do a poo or pass wind. If it’s combined with symptoms like vaginal bleeding, lower back pain or a burning sensation when you pee, or if the pain is severe and doesn’t subside after some rest, contact your doctor for personalised guidance.

  • Thicker hair. During pregnancy, many mums-to-be find that their hair gets thicker. It’s one of the physical changes you may really enjoy this trimester! Keep in mind, after you baby is born you might notice hair falling out – this is just things returning to normal as the extra hair that grew during pregnancy sheds. Read all about postpartum hair loss for more on why these changes happen.

FAQs at a Glance

  • The second trimester runs from 13 to 27 weeks of pregnancy.

  • The safest sleep position during pregnancy is on your side with your knees bent, using pillows for support. Lying face down can be uncomfortable because of your growing bump and sleeping on your back can limit blood flow and oxygen to the foetus.
    Don’t worry if you wake up and find that you’re on your back, simply turn back to your side. Experts say the position you fall asleep in tends to be the one you stay in for longest, so aiming to fall asleep on your side is the best.

  • Although experts say that sleeping on your left or right side are both OK during pregnancy, sleeping on your left side is ideal because it can help improve blood flow to the placenta and may help reduce swelling in your hands and feet because the kidneys can better eliminate waste products and fluids when you sleep on your left side.

  • You can start reading to your bump at any time! It might even help you feel more connected to your little one. Experts say from around 25 weeks your foetus may respond to familiar sounds such as your voice, so don’t be surprised if you feel movement in response to story time.

Checklist for the Second Trimester

  • Take a deep dive into the second trimester by reading our week-by-week pregnancy articles.

  • Make an appointment for your 20-week mid-pregnancy ultrasound scan.

  • Ask your doctor, what, if any, genetic tests or other screening tests may be recommend for you, and what the risks and benefits are.

  • Make a list of any questions you have about your pregnancy or childbirth so that you can get answers at your next antenatal check-up.

  • Research and choose a midwife if you’d like to have one.

  • Sign up for childbirth classes to ensure you get a spot. Read up on how to choose a childbirth class here. If you’re considering doing a hypnobirthing course, sign up soon as they usually start in the second trimester.

  • Ask your doctor what options you have for labour and childbirth, and think about where you would like to give birth.

  • Start writing your birth plan, if you plan to have one.

  • Think about whether a labour support person called a doula may be right for you, and start researching your options if yes.

  • Start doing pelvic floor exercises.

  • Consider getting some stretchy maternity clothes to accommodate your growing bump.

  • Talk to your employer about your maternity leave if you haven’t already.

  • Connect with other mums-to-be in your area or online so that you have a support network of others who are going through similar things as you.

  • Start researching your child care options for after your baby is born.

  • Play around with our Baby Name Generator for inspiration on baby names.

  • If you’ve decided not to find out your baby’s gender during an ultrasound, have some fun playing with our Chinese Gender Predictor.

  • If you are given a printout of the ultrasound image at your second trimester ultrasound, start your baby’s first photo album with it.

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How we wrote this article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS). You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.