The Second Trimester of Pregnancy: Concerns & Tips

The Second Trimester: What Have You Never Read Before?

When Can I Know the Sex of My Baby?

The most foolproof way to determine the sex of your baby is to wait until after the birth, when the doctor or nurse happily exclaims, "It's a boy!" or "It's a girl!" However, you may be able to find out sooner through some invasive procedures that detect the sex of the baby. Chorionic villus sampling, a biopsy of the placenta at 10 to 12 weeks of pregnancy, can determine the sex of the baby, but it carries a 1/200 chance of miscarriage. Amniocentesis, the introduction of a needle into the uterine cavity at 15 to 20 weeks, also carries a 1/200 chance of complication.

Looking on ultrasound after 15 weeks of pregnancy is a less complicated, but also less accurate way to find out about the sex of the baby. Ultrasound bounces sound waves off your body tissues to create an image on a screen in the same way a submarine uses sonar. Ultrasounds are performed to look for birth defects and to determine if the baby is healthy, but many parents-to-be hope the fetus is positioned so that sex can be determined. If you do not see the sex of the baby at the time of a medically indicated ultrasound examination, you may pay for another ultrasound exam. Health insurance does not cover an examination to determine the sex.

What Can I Take For a Cold?

Guaifenesin (Robitussin) and other over-the-counter cough syrups are generally safe cold remedies. For uncontrollable runny noses, pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) is also safe to take in moderation. In addition, saline nose drops and humidifiers are helpful in reducing cold symptoms. For more persistent cold symptoms (more than 1 week duration), a cough that produces colored sputum or a fever greater than 100 F, or for uncomfortable allergy symptoms, you should contact your health care provider for further evaluation and, possibly, prescription medications.

What Can I Take For Heartburn and Constipation?

Heartburn and constipation are very common complaints throughout pregnancy. Antacids such as calcium carbonates (Tums or Rolaids) are very helpful for heartburn and may be easily kept in your purse, car, or bedside table for use if the condition should strike unexpectedly. They can also be an excellent source of calcium if you are not a milk drinker, although you should always talk to your doctor before supplementing your diet. Constipation may be relieved by drinking lots of water, eating leafy vegetables or prunes for fiber, or taking docusate sodium (Colace), psyllium (Metamucil), docusate calcium (Surfak), or magnesium hydroxide (Milk of Magnesia). For tougher cases, bisacodyl (Dulcolax) suppositories or enemas may be used under the supervision of your health care provider.

Can I Exercise During Pregnancy?

If you led an active lifestyle with a regular exercise regimen prior to pregnancy, you can continue the same routine during pregnancy as long as you maintain your heart rate at less than 140 beats/minute (35 beats in 15 seconds) and refrain from exercising to exhaustion. Midway through pregnancy, there may be discomfort while running or jumping due to an expanding belly, so you may want to substitute your regimen with power-walking or other low impact activities. Swimming and dance are safe forms of exercise that are recommended during pregnancy. Yoga and stretching exercises are also very helpful (and relaxing) when you are pregnant. You risk injury when doing activities like ice skating and skiing after the first trimester because your center of gravity has shifted. If you led a sedentary lifestyle prior to pregnancy, do not attempt to begin a demanding exercise plan during pregnancy without your doctor's supervision. A new exercise plan can bring an increased risk of fetal growth restriction as more oxygen goes to your working muscles rather than to the developing baby.

Can I Have Dental Work During Pregnancy?

Poor dental hygiene has been linked to premature labor, so it is important that dental problems be treated promptly. Local anesthetics are safe, as are dental x-rays with appropriate lead shielding of your abdomen. A small amount of gum bleeding during pregnancy may be normal; if it becomes excessive, contact your health care provider. Some pregnant women also develop a condition known as ptyalism, which is excessive salivation and spitting. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for this condition, although it usually resolves after delivery. Some women find that sucking on mints helps relieve ptyalism.

Do I Need to Have an Ultrasound of the Baby During Pregnancy?

It is not the standard of care across the for all women to have an ultrasound examination during pregnancy. In some states or hospitals, there are protocols requiring doctors to perform at least one ultrasound to look at fetal anatomy (usually around 16 to 20 weeks of pregnancy). However, not all health care providers or hospitals have access to this type of technology, depending on the community setting. Most women who are low risk and have no family history of birth defects have no real reason to need an ultrasound. Your health care provider may request an ultrasound if you are not sure of your last menstrual period, if your abdomen is smaller than it should be, if you have vaginal bleeding during pregnancy, or if the baby's heart beat can't be heard. Ultrasounds in moderation are very safe and do not harm the baby; however, they do have their limitations. An ultrasound may reveal misleading information that can lead to unnecessary anxiety and invasive testing in order to clear up any concerns about the baby's health.

Can I Color or Perm My Hair?

In general, the medical community has no concerns regarding the use of hair treatments during pregnancy because the chemicals are not absorbed through the skin. If you are particularly concerned about potential toxins, refrain from treatments during pregnancy and wait until after delivery to color or perm your hair. You may want to try "natural" coloring agents such as henna (rather than ammonia-based products) and make sure the room you are being treated in is well-ventilated. Lye-based relaxing agents should be avoided during pregnancy.

Should I Take Childbirth Classes?

If you are interested in childbirth classes, your second trimester is the time to sign up. There are a number of different types of classes. Some classes are concerned solely with pain management in labor while others address late pregnancy care, labor, and the postpartum period. Many hospitals provide childbirth education classes, during which you can be introduced to hospital personnel in nursing, anesthesia, and pediatrics, while you gather information about the hospital's philosophy regarding childbirth and recovery. Your instructor will give you the hospital policy regarding visitors during labor, delivery and recovery. Non-hospital based classes tend to focus more clearly on specific questions: that is, how to approach pain management or breast-feeding, or how to find the right childcare.

Choose a class not based solely on availability and convenience, but also on philosophy. Ask your health care provider and friends for recommendations. If this is your first pregnancy, you may want to pick a class that reviews all of the different options available for pain management, as well as labor management. Every woman experiences pain in her own way. Some women are able to have a natural (un-medicated) childbirth, while others may want to try delivering without medication but then find themselves in a long, drawn-out labor from which they want relief. In this setting, medication can be beneficial; it allows women to relax and let labor resume normally. Still other women do not want to experience any pain at all and they plan before or at the onset of labor to receive pain medication.

Regardless of the route you choose, be open-minded. If you are considering a birthing contract, discuss this with your provider now. He or she may not agree to everything you request. If you cannot come to some agreement, then you may want to find a practitioner who will feel comfortable with your wishes.

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