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Welcome to the second trimester of your pregnancy! You are now one-third of the way through your pregnancy, and must be observing quite a few changes in your body and mind. The worst of your pregnancy symptoms have now become manageable, and your chances of complications like miscarriage have reduced.

And while that means you can heave a sigh of relief and start enjoying that pregnancy glow as you flaunt your now-visible baby bump, you must take care of your pregnancy diet and pregnancy exercises routine among other things because there is still quite a way to go before you deliver and bring your little baby home. Taking all the vitamin and mineral supplements needed during pregnancy and getting all the relevant tests and checkups during pregnancy done on time is a must.

The beginning of this trimester is also when you should let your workplace know about your pregnancy, if you hadn’t earlier. This will give you time to prepare for your absence from office during maternity leave and also help you organise the home front and childcare better. If you’re not a working woman, this should still be the time when you start to slowly invest in all the necessities for the baby, and plan ahead for the rest of the pregnancy.

While the symptoms of the first trimester, like morning sickness, might not last during the second trimester, you should be aware that this trimester comes with its own sets of issues - like increased sex drive or libido, bleeding gums, etc. (Read more: Sex during pregnancy)

It’s best to be prepared about these issues and any complications that may arise during the 13th week of your pregnancy. Here’s everything you need to know:

  1. Baby size and features at 13 weeks of pregnancy
  2. Changes in your body by the 13th week of pregnancy
  3. 13th week of pregnancy symptoms
  4. Complications in the 13th week of pregnancy
  5. Things you should do in the 13th week of pregnancy
  6. Takeaways for the 13th week of pregnancy

The baby in your belly is about 7.4cm long from head to bottom, which is roughly the size of a peach. The foetus now weighs about 25 grams, which might not seem like much. However, the baby will continue to grow and your belly will get heavier with time, so be prepared. 

Your baby’s ovaries or testes are fully formed inside the body now, and she or he might be able to put her or his thumb in the mouth now. However, the baby’s ability to suck on the thumb hasn’t developed yet.

The baby is also able to move around in the amniotic fluid, but you are unlikely to feel the baby kick until the 17th week of pregnancy. Your baby is also able to urinate at this point, and the urine is released into the amniotic fluid. Your baby’s skin is transparent still, but will start to thicken soon.

Your attention might be on your bump, which might be small but visible to the world. While you might not be wearing maternity clothes yet to accommodate your growing belly, you will have to opt for the more loose-fitting clothes in your wardrobe. You might also start observing some stretch marks around your abdomen, breasts, hips or buttocks, which indicates that your body is preparing to grow bigger. 

Your breasts are also growing at this point as they prepare for lactation. They might also feel lumpier, which indicates that the mammary ducts have prepared themselves for milk production. Colostrum, a highly nutritious yellowish fluid that constitutes breastmilk in the first few days after delivery, will also start getting produced in the breasts now. This might be a good time to shop for maternity clothes and get fitted for a new bra.

Read more: Breast changes during pregnancy

As you enter the second trimester of the pregnancy, you’re likely to experience some of the symptoms of the first trimester of pregnancy as well as some which are completely new. While it’s likely that you won’t experience morning sickness for much longer, you might experience the following.

  • Increased sex drive: While your body was already pumping double the amount of blood from the beginning of the pregnancy, a lot of it is now being pumped to the pelvic area. This is the reason why some women experience an increased libido during the second trimester. It’s also going to make you feel thirstier, so make sure you drink enough water.
  • Swollen gums: Hormonal changes during pregnancy can make your teeth and gums more vulnerable to plaque formation. This plaque formation in turn can make the gums swell up, and in some cases, it can lead to bleeding and inflammation. This is also called pregnancy gingivitis or gum disease. You should consult your doctor if this symptom shows up.
  • Round ligament pain: Most pregnant women experience round ligament pain in the lower belly or groin area - either on one side (usually right side) or across both sides. This is one of the most common complaints in the second trimester, and it’s quite normal as the round ligaments support the uterus and the growing baby.
    The pain is often linked to vigorous or repetitive movements and may also occur immediately after getting out of bed. Light stretching and avoiding repetitive movements might provide some relief from this type of pain in pregnant women.
    However, if you cannot bear the pain or you have other symptoms like fever in addition to the pain, do consult your doctor immediately.
  • Headaches: This symptom is more likely to happen in the first and third trimesters, but headaches might occur occasionally during the second trimester as well. Headaches are likely to happen due to the volume of blood being pumped in your body, or because of hormonal changes. Consult your doctor if the headaches persist or become difficult to manage. 
  • Stomach issues: Heartburn is more likely to affect you during the second trimester, with indigestion during pregnancy, bloating and constipation also recurring. The best way to deal with stomach-related issues at this point is to cut out fatty or fried foods from your diet completely, and instead focus on getting a balanced diet suited for your pregnancy. 
  • Melasma: Dark or brown patches are likely to appear on your skin, especially on the face and forehead. These patches usually disappear after the delivery. On the other hand, many women experience radiant skin quality during their second trimester.

A pregnancy is usually without complications if you are healthy and do not have a genetic predisposition for any health issues. But despite all the care you might be taking in the prenatal period, you might experience some complications. While the risks of an ectopic pregnancy are negligible during the second trimester, the following complications can come up during the 13th week of pregnancy.

  • Infections: Unless you’re living in a bubble, you might not be able to completely avoid viral infections, bacterial infections and fungal infections while you’re pregnant.
    The risk of urinary tract infections also goes up during pregnancy. Additionally, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like chlamydia can be treated even during pregnancy - early detection is obviously better for the baby and mom.
    All of these infections can affect your health as well as the well-being of your baby. This is the reason why taking care of your hygiene is of the utmost importance during your pregnancy. 
  • Subchorionic haemorrhage: Bleeding during pregnancy can be a cause of worry because there isn’t supposed to be any vaginal bleeding during the second trimester. However, if the placenta detaches from the area where it was implanted for any reason, it can cause a subchorionic haemorrhage or hematoma. Depending on the size of the haemorrhage, the bleeding can be light or heavy. It’s best to consult your obstetrician if this problem shows up at all. (Read more: Placental abruption symptoms, causes, prevention, diagnosis, treatment)
  • Hypertensive diseases: Hypertensive diseases are a group of health issues related to blood pressure which are likely to show up in the second trimester. These issues include preeclampsia, eclampsia, gestational hypertension and chronic hypertension. Most of these disorders can have serious implications for both the mother and child, so consulting your doctor, going for regular checkups, and getting the treatment recommended by the doctor is very important. (Read more: How to use a blood pressure machine)
  • Miscarriage: A miscarriage is the sudden loss of a pregnancy that can occur before the 20th week of pregnancy. A miscarriage can occur due to any number of reasons beyond your control, and once a miscarriage starts, there’s no way to stop it. This can be quite exhausting and traumatic, especially for the mother. This is the reason why psychological counselling is a must for couples who have lost a baby to miscarriage.

Entering the second trimester means getting prepared for phase two of your pregnancy. This means you should get quite a few things done in the 13th week to make sure you’re well-prepared for the rest of your pregnancy. You should get the following things taken care of during this week.

  • Tests and screenings: During the second trimester, the obstetrician is going to schedule a number of routine checks with you, including an ultrasound during pregnancy - this will likely be done between the 18th and 20th weeks. The doctor will also want to check if you’ve contracted any infections. Your doctor will likely recommend a triple marker test at this stage, to make sure that everything is okay with your baby.
    In some cases, the doctor may recommend an alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) test or an amniocentesis - in which a tiny amount of amniotic fluid is extracted from the womb to test for chromosomal abnormalities and birth defects like spina bifida (in which the baby's spine does not develop properly).
    If your doctor has recommended an amniocentesis, do check with him or her about the risks and proper precautions. 
  • Vaccinations: If your doctor considers you or the baby to be at risk, you might have to take a few vaccines during pregnancy. It’s important to discuss your medical history and that of your family with your doctor to figure this part out, and get all the tests your doctor suggests done on time.
  • Diet during pregnancy: Following a healthy and balanced diet during pregnancy is of the utmost importance, and you should stick to a diet with carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. It’s important to remove caffeine, alcohol and fatty and processed foods from your diet during pregnancy.
  • Exercise during pregnancy: Unless you’re having twins or multiple foetuses - or you have any other complications in your pregnancy - there is absolutely no reason why you can’t exercise during your pregnancy. Exercising during pregnancy will actually help keep you fit and healthy, and aid post-pregnancy weight loss too.

Pregnancy can be a stressful time, especially if you’re worried about the outcomes and it’s your first pregnancy. However, it’s important to remember that if you take adequate care during the prenatal period, both you and your baby will be absolutely fine. Keep the following things in mind, and de-stress as much as possible:

  • Remember to stay away from foods which are raw, undercooked or processed. These can cause infections like salmonella or listeriosis, which can further complicate a pregnancy.
  • Staying active is very important, but strenuous activities and hectic travel or work schedules should be avoided as your pregnancy progresses.
  • While it’s natural to get excited about the arrival of your baby and planning ahead is commendable, do not get the baby’s nursery or any part of the house painted during the second trimester. Paint fumes can be toxic, and high levels of exposure to it can also be harmful.
  • Don’t take any medications unless prescribed to you by the doctor. Sticking to the doses of recommended medications is also very important. 
  • Avoid wearing heels and opt for comfortable shoes. As your pregnancy progresses, your belly weight will increase and you will need proper footwear for it. (Read more: Swelling during pregnancy)
  • Get enough rest and sleep and make sure you keep stress and anxiety at bay. Meditate, go for walks, and make sure you stay happy. (Read more: Why women need more sleep than men)

References

  1. Start4Life. National Health Service [Internet]. Hertfordshire. UK; Week 13 – your second trimester
  2. American Pregnancy Association [Internet]. Irving, Texas, USA; Pregnancy Week 13
  3. Nemours Children’s Health System [Internet]. Jacksonville (FL): The Nemours Foundation; c2017. Week 13
  4. Abbrescia, Kelly and Sheridan, Barry. Complications of Second and Third Trimester Pregnancies. Emerg Med Clin North Am , 21 (3), 695-710, vii. PMID: 12962354
  5. National Health Service [Internet]. Hertfordshire. UK; Teeth and gums in pregnancy
  6. Mammario, Alessia. et al. Hypertensive Disorders of Pregnancy. J Prenat Med. 2009 Jan-Mar; 3(1): 1–5. PMID: 22439030
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