The second trimester is so often described as the easiest – the worst of the morning sickness has passed, the risk of miscarriage is significantly diminished, and you discover your pregnancy glow, whilst still not being so large you are permanently uncomfortable. Sadly, mine didn’t go quite like that, at least for the first half.
I was looking forward to it. My second trimester started on Christmas Day, and I did feel pretty exhausted still for the first couple of days, but I put this down to being busy. Then I got some sort of stomach bug and felt rotten for quite a few days. It wasn’t until New Year’s Day that I woke up feeling on top of the world – I felt ready to take on anything and anyone, and the total exhaustion of the first trimester seemed to have left me. I thought this must be what the second trimester would be like, and I was raring to go.
The Headaches Begin
Next morning I had a killer headache. I have suffered with chronic headaches in the past, often daily for periods of weeks or months, and this headache felt scarily like those. I didn’t want to think about the possibility it could be the same headaches back to stay, and I tried to ignore them. For several weeks. Some days it was mild, others I couldn’t get out of bed. It became clear to me that either there was a connection between my pregnancy/hormones and the headaches, or whatever had caused them in the past was back (no amount of tests ever got to the bottom of it). I asked the doctor, who said that it was likely my previous headaches were also hormonal, and because in the past no pain relief had helped, he said he would not bother even exploring my very limited pain relief options. I felt marginally better knowing that there was nothing I could take that would help – if I knew I could take a few tablets and it would have gone away if I wasn’t pregnant, I think it would have been quite a bit harder.
So I struggled on. Work suffered, the progress on the house ground to a halt as I was unable to use power tools or even pick up a paintbrush for weeks, and I felt like a half person. I just wanted to stay in bed, but even lying my head on my incredibly comfy pillow was painful. I began to wonder whether the hormones that were likely causing it would be there for the next 6 months, and even after birth. I couldn’t bear the sound of the dogs barking and had to leave the room – how would I cope with a screaming baby 24/7 if I still felt like this? I admit I got really quite depressed and was really worried for my future as a mother – I just didn’t think I could manage it.
The Miracle of Acupuncture
I don’t know who first suggested acupuncture to me – it may have been my midwife, but everything from that couple of months is a bit of a blur. In mid February I found a local acupuncture practitioner who also specialised in pregnancy acupuncture, and I booked myself in. I had acupuncture as a child to help with pins and needles which I used to get within minutes of sitting down, and it really helped me, but for some reason I wasn’t convinced it could have any impact on the headaches, such was my level of pain and my mental state.
I attended my first session both sceptical and hopeful, and my acupuncturist Louisa really put me at ease. For those wondering, the needles really don’t hurt, and it was actually a very relaxing experience – after a discussion of my symptoms, Louisa suggested some points for treatment, and then gently poked me a bit until she found spots which were sore. Most were in my legs and feet, one on the side of my hands, and two in the back of my head. Once the very thin needles (nothing like as big as ones for an injection) were in, Louisa covered my legs with a warm towel, and left me for 20 minutes to relax. I very nearly fell asleep! She came back and removed them, and off I went.
Next morning – headache again. I tried not to get too down as Louisa had warned me it may take time and even a few treatments. The following day however – no headache for the first time in ages! And the next day…and the next. A full five days without a headache. I got so much done! It came back over the weekend, but luckily my next appointment was for Monday, and that time, the headache was gone by the next day. From then on I had weekly treatments, gradually spacing them out by one or two more days each time, so eventually it was fortnightly, and still, no headaches. I haven’t been for a month now, and still – no headaches! I am in the third trimester now (30 weeks today), so maybe the hormones are different anyway and I wouldn’t still be getting them, but I firmly believe I would have suffered another couple of months without acupuncture.
I am booked in with Louisa to have pre-birth treatments from 36 weeks, to help prepare my body for labour and boost my energy. If it has worked such miracles with my headaches, I fully expect it to be a huge help with labour too. And for those of you reading this thinking acupuncture is just mumbo jumbo, I strongly urge you to try it next time you have an ailment that your doctor can’t help with – it may work miracles for you too.
All the Rest of the Second Trimester Symptoms
Of course, there were other pregnancy symptoms and delights in my second trimester, but to be honest, they all paled in comparison to being turned into a zombie by an endless headache. Perhaps I should see it as karma for not having suffered too badly with morning sickness in the first trimester.
There was one significant change in the second trimester which was truly wonderful – we started to feel Pipsqueak kicking! This was around week 19 when I was beginning to realise the headaches were here to stay, and it really kept me going and assured me that even if this was my life now, it would be worth it. This was reinforced at our 20 week scan (and we didn’t find out the gender – we want it to be a surprise), and when we excitedly shared the news with all our friends. It started as little flutterings (a silly word, but really the only way to describe the sensation), but by two weeks later, I was feeling definite little thumps and thuds, and even Ste was beginning to feel them through my stomach. It was pretty magical, and still is, though at times I could perhaps do with a little less magic all at once – I fear Pipsqueak is a tap dancer in training!
I really hate sleeping with a blocked nose, but the second trimester seems to have brought new levels of phlegm which is just lovely. I have managed most nights, but occasionally a nasal spray has been needed – you can’t use most of the medicated ones, so a pure sea water one like Sterimar is advised (and works almost as well). This seems to be continuing in the third trimester, though I have a horrendous cold at the moment so I have no idea if it’s just that.
Another annoyance when you’re desperate for sleep – the sudden random twitches that seem to happen in your legs just as you get in bed. I don’t feel them any other time, no idea what causes them, but they are a pain in the backside. I don’t have it badly at all – it can have some serious side effects too, making some women need c-sections – but it is still annoying. My iron levels are fine (one of the few known causes, along with consuming too much caffeine or soft drink), and I have heard magnesium tablets can help. I haven’t bothered because mine are not bad enough to keep me awake longer than half an hour, but for those who are awake hours, they can apparently work wonders.
Pelvic Girdle Pain (SPD, or whatever they call it)
I started to notice that on very long dog walks, I would get sharp pains in one side of the bottom of my bump, and I felt like I had to walk along pressing against it. It wasn’t very pleasant, and it was putting me off walking which I really love. I asked the midwife who told me that the pain could be helped with a sacroiliac belt, which supports your bump during exercise (they shouldn’t be worn all the time), so I bought a secondhand one on eBay for a tenner (as opposed to £70 new), and started wearing it. It has made a huge difference whilst out walking, it feels like a big hug for the bottom of your bump. I still get niggling stabs and cramps and aches in the bottom of my bump at odd times of the day, but nothing like as bad as the ones whilst walking, and think some sort of pain as your pelvis stretches is kind of to be expected!
These started a couple of months ago. At first they almost always happened in an evening when I was sat down, and would last 5-10 minutes. It feels like my heart wants to burst out of my chest – really thumping away. Then it disappears as quickly as it started. I mentioned this to the midwife just before Easter and she panicked a bit and told me that often pregnancy is when a lot of undiagnosed heart defects come to the fore, as all the extra blood in your system means the heart struggles to cope. She booked me in for an ECG but they couldn’t do it until after Easter. I wasn’t too worried as it had been ongoing for a while, and I felt fine otherwise. Then the night before I was due to have the ECG, I was woken up several times in the night with it, and have been since then, and it is also happening at random points in the day, so it does seem rather worse. The 2 minutes I was hooked up to the ECG though, everything was fine, typically! I am going to ask if I can have a 24 hour monitor when I see the midwife next week, just to be completely sure nothing more serious is wrong, but I don’t think it is, I just think it is my system occasionally playing catch up pumping all the extra blood!
This is kind of an inevitable one, but yes, my bump has been growing! At 20 weeks I just looked like I’d been overeating. By 24 weeks I was probably one of those people you would look twice at on the tube and wonder if you should offer your seat, or whether you might end up grievously offending them. By 28 weeks at long last I had a proper, obvious, she’s-very-definitely-pregnant, baby bump. And I love it! I have never been particularly happy with my body, but seeing how it is coping with growing our little Pip is really amazing, and so far, happily, no stretchmarks either, which is great news. In fact, since I actually started to look pregnant, and the headaches disappeared, I have really enjoyed the remainder of the second trimester. I am not sure I ever reached the glowing stage (my skin seems to have reverted to my teenage years), but I am definitely not struggling as much as I was. All the little aches and pains and the getting up in the night to go to the loo (still only once most nights, which I consider pretty lucky) are a bit of a nuisance, but they are all worth it to feel your little one doing acrobatics inside you!
I realise my experience of the second trimester is a little unusual compared to most people’s – I’d love to hear how yours was, and whether it really was the ‘honeymoon period’ of pregnancy, or if you struggled with morning sickness all the way through, and especially if you suffered headaches and how and whether you managed to stop them. And don’t be afraid to share any rather more dramatic or gruesome pregnancy symptoms – you can always comment anonymously below if you’d like (though I also love to know who my comments are from!).
And if you’re thinking of acupuncture for any reason, please please give it a go asap, I hope you will be as amazed as I was. And no, this isn’t a sponsored post, Louisa has no idea I am writing it, this is just my honest (and grateful) opinion!