Second Trimester: What’s Happening in Your Body

By OBOS Pregnancy & Birth Contributors | April 7, 2014

For many women, the second trimester brings about several welcome changes. Nausea tends to subside or disappear entirely and your breasts become less tender. You will probably have increased energy and appetite.

Most women begin to feel the baby move at about 18 to 22 weeks. These first sensations, referred to as quickening, often feel like little fluttery movements or gas. Quickening, combined with the visual sign of a growing belly, may help make the pregnancy seem more real.

I had been feeling the baby move for a while but it didn’t really sink in that the fluttering I felt was the little person inside me. One afternoon my husband had his hand on my belly and the baby kicked really hard. It was the first time I really knew that I had been feeling the baby kick. We were so excited!

As the baby grows, so will your belly. At 12 weeks, your uterus is at the level of your pubic bone. Around 20 weeks, the top of your uterus (the fundus) may reach your navel, and by the end of the second trimester, it reaches even higher, so it is right under your ribs. Women have tremendously varied responses to the changing shapes of our bodies.

I was excited to have my body change. It was nice to be recognized as pregnant and not just fat. We called the first few months my “beer belly stage” because I didn’t look pregnant. It was just a wonder. My partner was so excited—I think she made it more real for both of us.

I’m fascinated with myself as a pregnant woman. I keep on staring at myself in the mirror in complete awe of the way my body is changing. Last night I just stared at my stomach for the longest time because the baby was kicking a lot and the way my stomach moved about was entrancing. It all feels so alien to me. I look so alien to me. Yet I really like the way I look pregnant. I’m more aware of my body, but not in a vain way.

As I got really big, sadly, I felt like a beached whale and didn’t feel good mentally or physically. I realize it sounds shallow, but my psychological scars run deep. My partner said I looked incredibly beautiful, but I thought he was just patronizing me.

Women often feel ambivalent as a result of the value our culture places on being thin. Many women try to live up to this cultural ideal, even while pregnant, with negative consequences.

Unfortunately, images of big, powerful birthing mothers are largely absent from our culture. Recently, popular media have celebrated pregnancy as sexy, but only for celebrities with otherwise “perfect” bodies. Imagine if we were surrounded by images that embraced our roundness instead. Try not to allow narrow cultural lenses to rob you of the right to feel happy and proud of your pregnant body.

Another physical change that may happen during the second trimester is the appearance of a linea nigra, a dark line that extends from your navel to your pubic bone. It will last for your whole pregnancy.

Toward the end of the second trimester, you may also begin to experience Braxton-Hicks contractions, small, non-painful contractions in which your uterus becomes hard for a moment and then releases. Braxton-Hicks contractions are different from labor contractions because they are usually not cramp-y at this stage and do not develop a rhythm. You can think of them as warm-up or practice contractions to prepare your uterus for labor.

Some women experience intense or unusual food cravings. Others develop a heightened sense of openness to the world, and feel sensitive and emotional. You may begin to have interesting dreams and remember them more than usual. If this happens to you, consider keeping a journal by your bed to track them.

You may also want to seek out other women’s pregnancy and childbirth stories. Sharing stories is an ancient and powerful way to build community, learn about the many different ways women birth, and prepare yourself for the choices you may be faced with in your own labor.

Sometimes the stories we hear are negative, scary, or disempowering.

Always around the lunch table at work somebody had a cousin or a friend who experienced some really traumatic birth, whose story they felt compelled to share. Many times, I could recognize the detrimental effect of snowballing medical interventions. I just tried to focus on my own goals for birth.

We tend to hear more from friends and the media about problem births than about typical births. Despite the reality that most births are safe and healthy, we are often given the message that birth is unsafe, and it’s easy to have the perception that birth is more risky than it really is. Try to find people and resources to nourish your confidence so that you can trust that birth is a normal, healthy process. For more information, see Approaching Pregnancy and Birth with Confidence.