Tips for Your Second Trimester

What you need to know about exercise, sex, medications and physical changes

dad happily putting his head to mom's pregnant bellyFor many women, hitting the second trimester of pregnancy is like flipping a switch. Suddenly, the nausea is gone, your appetite returns, and your energy is back. Plus, now you start looking pregnant. While you may not need maternity clothes yet, you may have started leaving buttons open, stealing shirts from his closet and freshening up larger-sized clothes possibly stashed in your closet from your past. Here's what you need to know to maintain that good feeling and look beautiful throughout your pregnancy.


Exercise and Pregnancy

Pregnancy is no excuse for lying on the couch, especially once your energy returns. Moderate levels of physical activity are perfectly safe if you don't have any health problems (but always check with your health care professional first). Exercise is also the best way to reduce the insulin resistance that can lead to gestational diabetes and to maintain normal blood sugar levels if you do develop it.

Walking, bicycling, swimming and even weight training with relatively low weights are all fine. Skip intensive activities like ice hockey, soccer, basketball and downhill skiing; exercises like tennis and horseback riding that could lead to falls; and exercises that require you to lie on your back. And now is probably not the best time to take up jogging, although if you've always jogged, you should be fine. As for intensity, take it down a notch from what you were doing pre-pregnancy. So, for instance, on a scale of 6 to 20, you should be at about a 12 to 14.

If you weren't exercising before your pregnancy, start slow, gradually working your way up to 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. And be careful to drink plenty of water before, during and after you work out, and avoid becoming overheated.

Pregnant Women Ask…
What's the best exercise during pregnancy?

Although there's no evidence as to the "ideal" exercise during pregnancy, we suggest swimming. The water supports your belly, helps you feel lighter, reduces the risk of becoming overheated or falling and provides an excellent aerobic workout.

Sex and Pregnancy

During your first trimester, you may have found the idea of sex about as exciting as having your fingernails pulled out one by one. But thanks to changing hormone levels and the demise of that nausea and exhaustion, sex is once again on the agenda.

If you're worried about hurting the baby, don't worry. The baby is protected within the amniotic fluid and sac. As long as your health care professional gave you the green light for sex, you're fine. Your partner may be a little hesitant, however. Talk to one another openly and honestly about your concerns and, if he is still worried about intercourse, bring him with you to your next prenatal visit to talk with your health care professional.

You will, by necessity, have to be creative. Consider it an adventure!

Oh, and don't worry about the baby. It doesn't know what you're doing and won't remember a thing!

Your Skin during Pregnancy

The "glow" of pregnancy isn't a myth. Thanks to high levels of estrogen and progesterone, along with increased blood volume, you probably will glow during this time. But not all changes to your skin are positive.

About half of all pregnant women develop what's called the "mask of pregnancy"—dark spots that appear on the cheeks and forehead. They are the result of—what else?—increased hormone production. Luckily, they fade after the baby is born. Make sure you use sunscreen and wear a hat when you're outside.

Other skin changes include:

Stretch marks. The skin on your stomach and breasts stretches to accommodate changes in your body, sometimes leading to white or pink streaks called stretch marks. You can use lotions and creams to try and prevent or reduce them, but there's no good evidence that they work. Those lotions, however, may help relieve the dry, itchy skin that also occurs. After delivery, the stretch marks fade to silvery marks. Think of them as the badge of honor of motherhood!

Linea nigra. This is the dark line that runs from your naval to your pubic bone. It gets darker during pregnancy but fades after.

Acne. Given that teenage acne is triggered by excessive hormones, it's not surprising you may experience breakouts during pregnancy.

Varicose and spider veins. The weight of your uterus pressing against large blood vessels can lead to sore, itchy veins, primarily on your legs. If your mother or sister had them during her pregnancy, you're more likely to develop them. To prevent them, avoid standing in one position for long periods of time; walk as much as possible to prevent blood from pooling in your legs; keep your legs slightly elevated when you sit or lie; wear support stockings; watch the weight gain; and up the amount of vitamin C and bioflavonoids you get in your diet, which studies find helps maintain strong blood vessels. You might also make a few appointments for reflexology, in which the feet and lower legs are massaged. One small study found it helpful in preventing or minimizing varicose veins during pregnancy.

Beauty Procedures and Pregnancy

If you've gotten used to your regular Botox injections, glycolic peels and microdermabrasion, it's time to get unused to them. Basically, you should avoid any medically unnecessary procedures or drugs during your pregnancy. And while you may feel those "lunchtime face-lifts" aesthetically necessary, they are definitely not medically necessary. The same goes for teeth whitening and hair coloring.

Learn about other common physical changes during pregnancy.

Medications during Pregnancy

It is unethical to test prescription or over-the-counter medications on pregnant women. Thus, what we know about their effects on the fetus comes from animal studies, anecdotal evidence and retrospective studies, in which researchers look back at a woman's records for any links between medication used during pregnancy and problems in the baby. But given that an estimated 46 percent of women in their childbearing years take prescription medications, and many more use over-the-counter drugs, it's safe to assume they're continuing some of that during pregnancy.

To learn if your medication is considered safe, go to www.safefetus.com. You can search on the specific medication and learn where it falls on the Food and Drug Administration's scale of safety. But, always talk to your health care professional first before taking any medication when you're pregnant.

Common medications that are considered safe during pregnancy include:

  • Benadryl
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Sudafed, Actifed, Dristan, Neosynephine*
  • Robitussin DM, Vicks cough syrup, Romilar, Halis*
  • Metamucil, Citrucel, Fiberall/Fibercon, Colace, Milk of Magnesia, Senekot
  • Kaopectate, Imodium, Parepectolin (for 24 hours, only after 12 weeks of pregnancy)
  • First-aid ointment
  • Maalox, Mylanta, Tums, Riopan, Titralac, Gaviscon
  • Preparation H, Anusol
  • Emetrol (if you don't have diabetes)
  • Hydrocortisone cream or ointment
  • Monistat or Terazol for yeast infection

*Do not use long-acting or extended use form.

News Flash: Do not use the following medications if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant:

  • The acne drug isotretinoin (Accutane)
  • Psoriasis drugs such as acitretin (Soriatane)
  • Thalidomide (Thalomid)
  • ACE inhibitors used to treat high blood pressure
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