In the second of our three interviews with Dr. Tony (Tao) Duan, we look at what you can expect to experience during your second trimester. Dr. Tony (Tao) Duan is the Founder and CEO of Shanghai Spring Field Hospital Management Group (China) and a long-standing MAM-expert.
MAM: Dr. Duan, when does the second trimester start and when does it finish?
Dr. Duan: The second trimester runs from 14 to 28 weeks (or from 13 to 27 weeks depending on method of calculation).
MAM: What happens in the second trimester? How does the female body change during this time?
Dr. Duan: Actually, the first and most welcome symptom of this trimester is that the woman will feel her energy coming back. Usually the second trimester is quite enjoyable, as sickness decreases, the baby bump is still a comfortable size and the pregnant woman can share the excitement of a new family member arriving with others. Nevertheless, she can expect to experience uncomfortable aches and pains, morning sickness, headaches or heartburn. Other side effects are less common but perfectly normal, such as nosebleeds or excess body hair, possibly because of an increase in hormones called ‘androgens’, which promote male characteristics.
MAM: How does the baby develop in this stage of pregnancy?
Dr. Duan: At the start of the second trimester, the baby is roughly the size of a lemon. Tiny, unique fingerprints are now in place and the heart is pumping 25 quarts of blood a day – that’s almost 24 liters. As the weeks go by, the baby’s skeleton begins to harden, turning from rubbery cartilage to bone, and it develops the ability to hear. You will probably feel your baby moving for the first time between 16 to 22 weeks. Even though babies move around in the womb from 7 or 8 weeks onwards, they are not big enough and their movements not strong enough for you to notice.
MAM: When is it possible to predict the sex of the baby?
Dr. Duan: This can be done by ultrasound at around 18 to 24 weeks.
MAM: What complications can happen in the second trimester? Is there anything you can do to avoid them?
Dr. Duan: One potential complication is preeclampsia. This is a serious condition characterized by high blood pressure. Risk factors include a past history of preeclampsia, multiple gestation – twins, triplets, etc. – chronic hypertension and diabetes. We recommend women to get their blood pressure checked every time they see their doctor or healthcare professional, to screen for preeclampsia. Preterm labor is also a possibility during the second trimester. This involves irregular contractions that cause the cervix to start opening. The best ways to reduce the risk of preterm labor are health-related choices such as stopping smoking, seeking treatment for drug misuse or asymptomatic bacteriuria, and maintaining a healthy weight.
MAM: What can you do to prepare for birth during the second trimester? For instance, when should you start with pelvic floor training?
Dr. Duan: You can do Kegel exercises from 27 weeks onwards. These are used to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor – the muscles that support the urethra, bladder, uterus and rectum. Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles may also help prevent or treat urinary stress incontinence, a problem that affects up to two-thirds of women during or after pregnancy.
MAM: How can you stay healthy during the second trimester? Do you have any nutrition tips?
Dr. Duan: The main thing to remember is to make sure you get more protein, more of certain vitamins and minerals – such as folic acid and iron – and more calories. You’re running two bodies now and you need the energy. Above all, make an extra effort to eat healthy. Take a look at your diet and see what could be improved. It’s easy to find reliable information and eating highly nutritious meals is one of the best things you can do for your baby's health.
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