The second trimester is the phase between Weeks 13–28 of pregnancy. As the fetus continues to grow and develop, a person may experience noticeable changes to their body, such as a bump developing.
During the second trimester, the fetus’s organs, bones, and functions continue developing. The pregnant person may experience symptoms such as stretch marks and lower back pain, but fatigue and nausea may ease.
This article explains what to expect in the second trimester, how the fetus develops, and health tips.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
The second trimester starts in
Learn more about pregnancy trimesters.
During the second trimester, the fetus continues developing and growing throughout the weeks:
- lower limbs develop
- the bones harden, particularly the long bones
- lungs start to develop tissue to allow the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide during breathing after birth
- toenails form
- neck definition develops
- hearing begins to develop
- the skin is still thin but will soon begin to thicken
- the digestive system is now working
- the area of the brain that manages motor movements fully develops
- in females, the vagina and uterus begin to develop
- lanugo, which is soft, downy hair, begins to cover the body
- people will be able to see the fetus’s eyes, nose, and lips on an ultrasound
- fat begins to form underneath the skin
- the ridges of fingerprints and footprints start developing in the hands and feet
- blood vessels become visible, making the skin wrinkled and reddish
- development of the sucking reflex occurs
- kicks and turns start getting stronger
- eyelids can open and close
- development of the nervous system occurs
- more fat develops, making the skin appear smoother
- the fetus may respond to loud sounds with sudden movements, pulling in the arms and legs
- the lungs are fully developed and produce surfactant, a substance to allow breathing after birth (but the lungs cannot yet work outside of the uterus)
- The body may ache, such as in the abdomen, back, groin, hips, ribs, and thighs.
- Stretch marks may develop on the abdomen, breasts, buttocks, or thighs.
- The skin around the nipples may darken.
- Patches of darker skin may develop on the face, typically in a symmetrical pattern over the forehead, cheeks, nose, or upper lip.
- A line may form on the skin from the belly button to the pubic hairline.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome may develop, causing tingling or numbness in the hands.
- A person may experience itchy palms, soles of the feet, or abdomen.
- A person may develop swollen ankles.
Tips for general health in the second trimester include
- Eating a nutritious diet: Focus on eating a balanced diet of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean protein, low fat dairy, and healthy fats such as nuts, olive oil, and avocado.
- Ensuring the right calorie intake: In the second trimester, it is best to consume around 340 additional calories each day.
- Taking prenatal vitamins: People can take a prenatal supplement to ensure they are getting the right nutrients, which include folic acid, iron, iodine, and choline.
- Staying physically active: Aim for a minimum of
150 minutesof moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week, such as brisk walking.
Learn about what to eat in the second trimester.
During the second trimester, people may have the following tests during their antenatal visits:
- Maternal blood screening: This test screens the blood for certain substances to check for the risk of congenital anomalies (also known as birth defects).
- Ultrasound: Between Weeks 18–22 of pregnancy, people may have an ultrasound to monitor the growth and development of the fetus and check for congenital anomalies.
- Glucose screening: Doctors recommend this to check for gestational diabetes. It typically takes place between Weeks 24–28 of pregnancy.
- Amniocentesis: A healthcare professional will take a sample of amniotic fluid to check for congenital anomalies or genetic conditions. People may have amniocentesis between Weeks 15–20 of pregnancy.
Certain complications can develop in the second trimester of pregnancy. For example, preeclampsia is a condition that
It is also possible to develop liver problems during the second trimester. If a pregnant person experiences itching along with any of the following symptoms, they should contact a doctor. A combination of these symptoms may indicate a liver problem:
- jaundice, which typically involves yellowing of the skin and eyes
- loss of appetite
A person should also contact a doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms:
Things people may want to consider in the second trimester include:
- the type of birth they ideally want, such as whether they would prefer to give birth in a hospital
- whether they want to know the sex of the fetus or want to wait until the birth to find out
- telling an employer about the pregnancy and deciding on parental leave
- attending antenatal appointments and taking antenatal classes
- who they would want to have as a birthing partner
Learn about announcing a pregnancy.
During the second trimester, the fetus will continue to grow and develop, and people may start to see a bump. Toward the end of the second trimester, people will start to feel the fetus move.
People may also feel less fatigue and nausea during this phase than in the first trimester.
Keeping active, eating a balanced diet, and attending all recommended screenings and antenatal checkups can help people manage their health during the second trimester.