| Self Care | Third
By the 26th week, your baby will weigh about 1 ¾ pounds and
be about 13 inches long. With this growth comes the development
of your baby's features, including fingers, toes, eyelashes, and
eyebrows. Around the fifth month, you might feel your baby move!
By the end of this trimester, all of your baby's essential organs
like the heart, lungs, and kidneys are formed.
Most women find the second trimester of pregnancy
to be easier than the first trimester, but it is important to
stay informed about your pregnancy in this stage too. While you
might notice that symptoms like nausea and fatigue are going away,
you will see other new, more noticeable changes to your body.
Your abdomen will expand as you gain weight and the baby continues
to grow. And before this trimester is over, you will feel your
baby beginning to move! Many of the other symptoms you had in
the first trimester might also continue, like constipation or
leg cramps, so it is important to keep doing all of the healthy
things you have already learned to help prevent or treat those
Aches and Pains
As your uterus and abdomen expands, you might feel pains in your
abdomen, groin area, or thighs. You also can feel backaches or
aching near your pelvic bone from the pressure of the baby's head,
your increased weight, and the loosening joints in these areas.
Lying down, resting, or applying heat can help resolve some of
these aches and pains. If pains do not get better after rest,
it is best to call your health care provider.
Shortness of Breath
As your baby gets bigger inside your body, there will be increased
pressure on all of your organs, including your lungs. You might
begin to notice that you are short of breath or might not be able
to catch your breath. Try taking deep, long breaths and try to
maintain good posture so your lungs have room to expand. You might
be able to breathe more freely at night by using an extra pillow
or by sleeping on your side.
Stretch Marks and Skin Changes
You might have heard stories from family members or friends about
the dreaded stretch marks from pregnancy. Stretch marks are red,
pink, or purple streaks in the skin, usually over the thighs,
buttocks, abdomen, and breasts. They are scars caused by the stretching
of the skin, and usually appear in the second half of pregnancy.
Only about half of all pregnant women get stretch marks though.
They can start out as pink, reddish brown, or dark brown streaks,
depending on your skin color. While creams and lotions can keep
your skin well moisturized, they do not prevent stretch marks
from forming. Most stretch marks fade after delivery to very light
In addition to stretch marks, you might notice other skin changes
in the second half of your pregnancy. You might notice that your
nipples are darker than before becoming pregnant, or that you
have a dark line on your skin that runs down your abdomen from
your belly button to your pubic hairline, called the linea nigra.
You also might have blotchy brown pigmentations on your forehead,
nose or cheeks. These skin changes are called melasma or chloasma.
They are more common in darker-skinned women. These skin changes
are caused by pregnancy hormones, and most of them will also fade
or disappear after delivery.
Tingling and Itching
Tingling and numbness of the fingers and a feeling of swelling
in the hands are common during pregnancy. These symptoms are due
to swelling of tissues in the narrow passages in your wrists,
and they should disappear after you deliver your baby. It also
is common to feel itchy as your pregnancy progresses. Pregnancy
hormones and your stretching skin, especially over your abdomen,
probably are to blame for most of your discomfort. About 20 percent
of all pregnant women have some kind of itching. And many pregnant
women also get red and itchy palms and soles of their feet. Only
in rare cases do pregnant women develop a condition called cholestasis
of pregnancy, which is itching along with nausea, loss of appetite,
vomiting, jaundice and fatigue. This condition is a sign of a
serious liver problem. In general, itching most often goes away
after delivery. In the meantime, you can relieve itching with
moisturizers. You can also use only gentle soaps, and avoid hot
showers or baths that can dry your skin. Try not to get over-heated
since heat rash can make the itching worse.
During the second trimester, your health care provider will be
able to hear your baby's heartbeat, see the baby's development
and determine the baby's age. You might be given several kinds
of tests at this time, including an ultrasound, which allows the
health care provider to see your baby and maybe even determine
your baby's sex. Other testing, such as the triple screen and
amniocentesis, can determine if the baby is healthy or if you
are at risk for any complications and need to be more closely
The triple screen is a blood test that helps find out your risk
of birth defects. It measures blood levels of these substances:
alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) (made by the liner of the fetus), and
two pregnancy hormones, estriol and human gonadotropin.
Amniocentesis is a test for genetic birth defects and other problems,
like Down Syndrome. It involves your health care provider inserting
a thin needle through your abdomen to take out a small amount
amniotic fluid for testing.
Now is a good time to learn the signs of pre-term or premature
labor. Premature labor occurs when a woman has labor before she
reaches the 37th week of pregnancy, or three weeks before her
due date. If you and your health care provider see any symptoms
of pre-term labor early, there is a better chance of stopping
it. If symptoms are not treated, they can progress to repeated
contractions that might cause the cervix to dilate (open) and
cause an early birth of the baby. Premature babies need intensive
care in the hospital after birth to help with their breathing,
feeding, and regulation of body temperature.
Any woman can have pre-term labor, but some women have a higher
risk because of problems with the uterus or placenta, or because
of having had a pre-term birth with another pregnancy. Drink plenty
of water to keep from becoming dehydrated, especially in warm
weather, since dehydration can cause pre-term labor.
Call your health care provider immediately if you have any
of the following symptoms of pre-term labor:
- Menstrual-like cramping — You may or may not be uncomfortable
with these cramps, but they feel like the cramps you can get
before or when you start your menstrual period.
- Gas- type pains — Feels like sharp pains in your stomach,
or like a stomach virus. You also can have diarrhea or nausea.
- Contractions — You may or may not have pain, but your abdomen
or stomach will get very hard (a feeling like it is tightening)
and then relax, on and off.
- Low pelvic pressure — Feels like the baby is putting a lot
of heavy pressure down very low inside.
- Low backache — Can be a strong or a dull ache.
- Blood from your vagina — Can be either light spotting or more
blood like during a menstrual period. Blood can be red or brown
- Increased discharge from your vagina — Much more discharge
than what you are used to during your pregnancy. Can even be
a sudden gush of a lot of water, or a small trickle or leak
of water that is continuous. Discharge can be watery, pinkish,
or brownish in color.