The Second Trimester

The second trimester of pregnancy is when pregnant women often feel their best. Although new physical changes are happening, the worst of the nausea and fatigue is over, and the baby bump isn’t big enough to cause discomfort yet. However, many women still have questions and concerns throughout their second trimester of pregnancy.

Here are the main concerns you may have about the second trimester, plus some tips to help you address them.

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 childbirth. If you don’t want to wait that long, however, you may be able to know the sex of your baby as early as the 7th week of your pregnancy. Your doctor can perform various tests and procedures to determine whether you’ll be having a son or daughter.

Most people discover the sex of their baby during a mid-pregnancy ultrasound. This imaging test uses high-frequency sounds waves to create pictures of the baby inside the womb. The resulting images can show whether the baby is developing male or female genitals. It’s important to note, however, that the baby must be in a position that allows the genitals to be seen. If the doctor is unable to get a clear view, you’ll have to wait until your next appointment to know the sex of your baby.

Other people may find out their baby’s sex through noninvasive prenatal testing. This blood test checks for pieces of the male sex chromosome in the mother’s blood to determine whether she is carrying a boy or girl. The test can also help detect certain chromosomal conditions, such as Down syndrome.

Another noninvasive option is cell-free DNA testing. This is a relatively new form of prenatal screening that uses a blood sample from the mother to analyze fragments of fetal DNA that have seeped into her bloodstream. The DNA can reflect the genetic makeup of the developing baby and check for the presence of chromosomal disorders. Cell-free DNA testing may be performed as early as the 7th week of pregnancy. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration isn’t currently regulating this form of genetic testing.

In some cases, chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis may be used to determine the sex of the baby and to detect chromosomal conditions. These procedures involve taking a small sample of the placenta or amniotic fluid to determine the sex of the baby. While they’re typically very accurate, they usually aren’t recommended due to the slight risk of miscarriage and other complications.

What Can I Take for a Cold During Pregnancy?

Guaifenesin (Robitussin) and other over-the-counter cough syrups are usually safe to take when you have a cold. For an uncontrollable runny nose, pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) is also safe to take in moderation. Saline nose drops and humidifiers are helpful in relieving cold symptoms as well.

Make sure to call your doctor for further evaluation if you experience:

  • cold symptoms that last for more than one week
  • a cough that produces yellow or green mucus
  • a fever greater than 100°F

What Can I Take for Heartburn and Constipation During Pregnancy?

Heartburn and constipation are very common complaints throughout pregnancy. Antacids, such as calcium carbonate (Tums, Rolaids), are very helpful for heartburn. These medications may be kept easily in your purse, car, or bedside table for use if the condition occurs unexpectedly.

For constipation relief, you can try:

  • drinking lots of water
  • eating prunes or dark, leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach
  • taking docusate sodium (Colace), psyllium (Metamucil), or docusate calcium (Surfak)

If these remedies don’t work, bisacodyl (Dulcolax) suppositories or enemas may be used for constipation under the supervision of your doctor.

Can I Exercise During Pregnancy?

If you led an active lifestyle and exercised regularly before pregnancy, you can continue the same routine during pregnancy. However, it’s important to keep your heart rate under 140 beats per minute, or under 35 beats every 15 seconds, and to refrain from overexerting yourself. You should also avoid certain activities that increase the risk of injury, such as skiing, ice skating, and playing contact sports.

Halfway through your pregnancy, you may begin to experience 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 dancing are safe forms of exercise that are often recommended during pregnancy. Doing yoga and stretching exercises are also very helpful and relaxing.

If you led a sedentary lifestyle prior to pregnancy, don’t attempt to begin a demanding exercise routine during pregnancy without your doctor’s supervision. A new exercise plan carries 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 Done During Pregnancy?

Poor dental hygiene has been linked to premature labor, or labor that occurs before the 37th week of pregnancy, so it is important that dental problems be treated promptly. Numbing medications are safe, as are dental X-rays with the use of a protective lead apron.

A small amount of bleeding in the gums is normal during pregnancy. However, you should contact your doctor if the bleeding becomes excessive. Some pregnant women also develop a condition known as ptyalism, which is excessive salivation and spitting. Unfortunately, there’s no treatment for this condition, although it usually goes away after childbirth. Some women find that sucking on mints helps relieve ptyalism.

Can I Color or Perm My Hair?

In general, doctors don’t have any concerns regarding the use of hair treatments during pregnancy since the chemicals aren’t absorbed through the skin. If you’re particularly concerned about potential toxins, refrain from hair treatments during pregnancy and wait until after childbirth to color or perm your hair. You may want to try natural coloring agents, such as henna, instead of ammonia-based products. If you do decide to color or perm your hair, make sure that the room you’re in is well-ventilated.

Should I Take Childbirth Classes?

If you’re interested in taking childbirth classes, your second trimester is the time to sign up. There are many different types of classes. Some classes solely focus on pain management during labor, while others focus on the period after childbirth.

Many hospitals also provide childbirth education classes. During these classes, you can be introduced to hospital personnel in nursing, anesthesia, and pediatrics. This gives you the opportunity to learn more 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, such as how to breast-feed or how to find the right childcare.

Your decision about which class to take should not be solely based on availability and convenience. You should also take the philosophy of the class into account. If this is your first pregnancy, you may want to pick a class that reviews all of the different options available for pain management and labor management. Ask your doctor, family, and friends for recommendations.