Trimester 2, weeks 13-28, is typically known as the ‘feel good trimester’ as we can often begin to feel a bit more like ourselves again. Tiredness isn't as dramatic and we can potentially begin to enjoy foods we once did, if we were previously adverse to them! In this trimester we want to make the most of maximising our strength through exercise and support our body for growing a baby, so here are my experiences of trimester two and how you can make the most of feeling great (hopefully!) and supporting the body physically and nutritionally.
Why do we begin to feel better in this trimester?
From sometime in trimester two nausea/sickness, if experienced in trimester 1, begins to subside, as well as the impalpable tiredness. A reminder though that the body doesn’t just miraculously know its trimester two, it can take a few weeks still. So dont fret if you reach 13 weeks and still feeling ropey. For me my sickness began to subside around week 19 - a good 7 weeks into trimester two! One thing I do find, and that of my clients too, is that sickness wasn’t as predictable post week 12. It came in random spurts and caught me off guard. So a reminder to support your body as best you can nutritionally and also exercise when and IF it feels right to you. Check out my blog on trimester one to help with tips on nausea & meal choices.
My energy well and truly returned as I comfortably entered week 15, but when baby took a growth spurt I knew I needed to take my foot of the accelerator and rested up. Growth spurts tended to go hand in hand with increased appetite so I focused on healthy snacks that wouldn’t spike my blood sugar (like a chocolate bar would) Here are some of my favourites:
Greek yoghurt, a drizzle of honey and frozen raspberries & granola (see below)
2 rice cakes with peanut butter & sugar free jam
Boiled eggs (on a rice cake for carbs on on their own)
Cucumber & cream cheese dip
Tahini protein balls - recipe here
Finding out I was anaemic - what does it feel like?
I realised that I wasn’t recovering as quickly from bouts of exhaustion, so after a trip to the doctor I found out I was anaemic (low iron levels in my blood) - this was making me feel tired, physically weak, heart palpitations, dizzy and very pale - so I started taking iron tablets. A nutritionist also then recommended I take them every other day, on an empty stomach with just water and at least half an hour before a morning coffee/food to maximise effect. My energy levels returned after a week! It's important to speak up to your consultant/GP if you are feeling tiredness to extremes or any of the above. If it doesn't feel right, dont just blame it on pregnancy. Always best to ask!
Lets talk about coffee...
Coffee lovers you may not like to read this, but its definitely time to curb your caffeine intake considerably or completely! By trimester 3 the half life of caffeine can be 12 hours - this means that if you have a coffee at 1pm, it can still be active in your system at 1am - wondering why you're wide awake!? So if you haven’t already switched to decaf for your afternoon pick me up, now is the time.
Limit caffeine to mornings, if you have too, or switch to decaf. I really enjoy a matcha (green tea powder - see right) latte as a natural remedy for the afternoon lull. Remember tea has plenty of caffeine too, as well as dark chocolate (which I know is a popular after dinner snack). It will help limit 'pregnancy insomnia' by reducing caffeinated drinks/snacks, something that a lot of mothers suffer with from trimester 2 onwards.
I am coffee lover and my two cups a day is something I've had for the best part of 15 years. I will openly admit, skipping the second cup has meant I have have never slept so well than in this (third) pregnancy...plus running around after my other two (4 & 2.5 years) is also helping with the tiredness levels!
Your appetite and how we can support the body in this trimester
As my job is very much dependent on me showing up, both online and at my clients’ houses, I continued to focus on nutritionally dense meals to keep sugar/energy crashes at bay. This means a balance of carbs, fats & proteins in every meal and snack (if possible), particularly at breakfast. Many struggle with getting protein in at breakfast; eggs are a great source but we dont always have the time to cook them. So my favourite protein injection at breakfast is either greek yoghurt or a protein shake along with my porridge (see simple recipe below).
Protein is the building blocks of cells. As we are literally building a small human cell by cell, getting enough protein in each day is key. If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, it's vital that you’re increasing levels of plant based protein to help.
Here is a simple yet super tasty protein shake:
1 scoop vanilla protein (vegan or whey)
2 large ice cubes
1 tbsp peanut butter powder (or 1tsp of peanut butter)
1 medium to large banana
Optional - maple syrup or a date for sweetness but depending on the protein powder and their artificial sweeteners it may not need it.
Blitz all together and it genuinely tastes like a McDonald’s milkshake!
Are protein shakes safe in pregnancy - yes! Here is a post about them from my instagram
Exercise in Trimester 2
As trimester 2 is the feel good trimester, often this is the one window of opportunity we get to maximise our strength for the upcoming trimester 3, where we then begin to de-load and maintain the strength we have built, as bump grows more rapidly.
I always find this with my clients when they enter trimester 2; more energy, sickness subsiding etc. so a good time to push yourself a bit more with training - which is exactly what I did and what I focus on in The Pregnancy Program
Building strength in pregnancy is 100% allowed and in fact, encouraged...
It's allowed because you are still able to push a few boundaries in pregnancy when your energy allows and also your body still adapts to strength training like it would when not pregnant - building strong, lean muscle.
It's encouraged because as baby really begins to grow, your posture and centre of gravity change and if we don't support our bodies the right way with our training, this can result in aches and pains. We need to be able to support our body the best way and keep it strong to grow a baby - so endless cardio won't be of much help here. Maintaining good posture and strength for carrying the extra weight of baby and fluids etc. will help us physically and mentally as we enter trimester 3.
How my exercise changed in this trimester
In this block of time, like I do in The Pregnancy Program, I focused on building pure strength as well as getting a good sweat on through strength training & sweaty cardio finishers. Training time could increase slightly to closer to 40mins from 20-30mins as I was able to push myself more. My workouts went from full body workouts, to lower body, upper & core and full body splits and remained that way throughout. This was so I could single out muscle groups (like glutes, shoulders, core etc.) and maximise their strength and support my body going into trimester three and keep up with the everyday demands of my job and my two girls.
As previously mentioned, keeping a strong body to help maintain posture, reduce aches & pains and also for those with other children - keep up with lifting and pushing demands - is so key in pregnancy. Cardio only workouts at this stage are indeed a great source of movement but if you're looking to really tailor your workouts to your pregnancy, strength training helps ten fold with the additional strains and physical demands baby growing places on the body - you can find out more in The Pregnancy Program if you want to learn more about this.
Interestingly, your sweat threshold increases as you progress through pregnancy (so the more pregnant you are, the quicker you sweat - an amazing adaptation to keep our temperature regulated for baby) so I found with the strength work and finishers, I was really working up a sweat and my heart rate. With this in mind, some days I skipped the cardio finisher as I felt satisfied after just the strength work - I knew I had done enough and admitting to myself I didn’t need to push myself was initially hard, but more rewarding after, so I wasn’t exhausted.
Pelvic floor, pelvic floor, pelvic floor...
I will admit...I became quite relaxed with my pelvic floor squeezes and relaxation in this trimester. I soon began to realise though that the strength of it wasn’t matching up to the weight of the baby so after a sneeze that left me thinking…that didn't feel quite right...it gave me the kick I needed to get back to guided squeezes, and relaxation. As soon as I got back into a routine of lying, seated, standing squeezes 3 times per day, things improved almost immediately.
Interestingly, when training with resistance in our workouts, the pelvic floor gets a workout too! Especially if you are breathing correctly, like how I teach in The Pregnancy Program! It’s why one of the best ways to strengthen the pelvic floor is with resistance training. It doesn't mean however we should ignore our squeezes and relaxation sessions... As like training any muscle the body in the body to strengthen, isolated muscle training is important too. If you want to build your shoulder strength, you wouldn’t focus on sit ups…same goes for the pelvic floor, focused approach is just as important, outside your day to day strength training.
Back and hip ache began to creep back in - how I kept it at bay!
Trimester two is often the start of pelvic related pains. It can be down to so many factors including muscle weakness/tightness, relaxin and incorrect exercise choices. Sometimes its unavoidable, but there are so many things we can do to help it from getting worse.
I suffered from terrible pelvic girdle pain with my first two pregnancies, but with this one its been very rare as my training and mobility has helped keep it at bay. I did however find that it crept back in on the odd occasion, usually on days I was less active (days I had no daily walk particularly) and when I took my eye off pelvic floor squeezing and relaxing!
We can often get ourselves into a vicious cycle with pelvic pain. When we feel stiff/achy in our hips we think to avoid movement and become more sedentary... this can in turn make it worse and then we're even LESS likely to want to move. A lot of the time a visit to a women's health physio for an assessment combined with stretching, mobility & strengthening exercises can help, not staying still! I'm not saying rest isn't a good thing, its important but humans are designed and built to move, even throughout pregnancy, so sitting still can do more hard than good.
This trimester has been a relief from trimester 1 and a pre-cursor for prepping my body well for trimester 3. Finding a good routine with exercise, maximising strength training before the de-load phase of trimester 3 and also a balance with nutrition was key to feeling energised and strong. It's a trimester to really enjoy as the baby bump grows & shows as you work towards the final weeks!
Looking for help with exercising in your pregnancy? The Pregnancy Program is available to join anytime on a 7 day free trial. I designed it specifically for every week of pregnancy, not just every trimester, so you know that you're supporting your body the right from 10 weeks to 40 weeks! You can find out more here