Second trimester: Physical changes and common discomforts

Second trimester: Physical changes and common discomforts
Here are the main physical changes you’ll notice and the most common discomforts that can develop during the second trimester.


The second trimester is often considered the most pleasant period of pregnancy. You no longer have morning sickness, you have more energy, and your moods stabilize. In addition, the risk of miscarriage is lower. Your pregnancy is also increasingly apparent.

Here are the main physical changes you’ll notice during the second trimester. Remember that every woman experiences pregnancy differently. For some, these symptoms may only appear in the third trimester.

Physical changes

  • Your belly gets rounder, and you may notice the appearance of stretch marks.
  • Your uterus continues to expand (4 cm in height per month). By the sixth month of pregnancy, it’s about 24 cm high.
  • Your centre of gravity shifts as your pelvis prepares for childbirth. This change may cause an occasional loss of balance.
  • You notice that certain areas of your body, like your nipples and scars, are darker. A brownish vertical line, known as the linea nigra, may appear between your pelvic region and navel. Irregular spots may also develop on your face. This is sometimes called the “mask of pregnancy.” These darker areas will disappear after the baby is born. However, you should avoid sun exposure, as this may magnify the appearance of the spots.
  • Your increased blood volume causes your veins to dilate. Varicose veins may appear on your legs, and the veins in your breasts may become more visible.
  • Your breasts grow, and colostrum may leak from your nipples.
  • You gain weight (5–7 kg on average).
  • Your teeth and gums are more sensitive and may bleed more easily.
  • Your moods are likely more stable.
  • Thanks to pregnancy hormones, you have a more radiant complexion, shinier hair, and stronger nails.
  • You feel your baby’s first active movements (between weeks 18 and 20). If you’ve been pregnant before, you may feel them earlier (around week 16).

Common discomforts

Pregnancy affects a woman’s entire body. The cardiovascular, digestive, respiratory, nervous, reproductive, and urinary systems are all impacted. It’s therefore normal to feel various aches and pains over the next few months.

Below is a list of the most common discomforts experienced in the second trimester. To learn more about a specific ailment, click on its name and consult the fact sheet.

  • Heartburn
  • Nasal congestion and nosebleeds
  • Constipation and hemorrhoids
  • Braxton Hicks contractions
  • Leg cramps
  • Groin pain
  • Swelling of the legs and feet
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Rashes
  • Back pain
  • Headaches
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Varicose veins in the legs
  • Stretch marks

If you’re concerned about any of your symptoms, write them down and discuss them with your health care provider during your next appointment. Don’t hesitate to contact them between appointments or call Info-Santé (811) if your symptoms are worrisome. Some over-the-counter medications can relieve certain discomforts, but it’s important to talk to a doctor or pharmacist before taking any.

 

Things to keep in mind

  • The second trimester is often considered the most pleasant period of pregnancy.
  • Changes that occur in the second trimester affect your entire body.
  • If you’re concerned about any of your symptoms, discuss them with the health care professional monitoring your pregnancy.

 

Naître et grandir

Scientific review: Roxanne Piché, nursing adviser, Maternal Fetal Medicine Clinic, CHU Sainte-Justine
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: June 2019

 

Sources

Please note: Hyperlinks to other websites are not updated regularly, and some may have changed since publication. If a link is no longer valid, use search engines to find the information you’re looking for.

  • Doré, Nicole, and Danielle Le Hénaff. From Tiny Tot to Toddler: A practical guide for parents from pregnancy to age two. Quebec, Institut national de santé publique du Québec, 2019, 776 pp. www.inspq.qc.ca
  • Ladewig, Patricia, et al. Soins infirmiers en périnatalité. 4th ed., Montreal, ERPI, 2010.
  • Larousse médical. Paris, Éditions Larousse.
  • Regan, Lesley. Votre grossesse au jour le jour. 2nd ed., Éditions Hurtubise, 2010.
  • The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. Partir du bon pied. Mississauga, Éditions Wiley, 2010, 235 pp.