Nutrition in the second trimester

By Akii Ngo, Bump Babes

PBC Expo spoke with nutritionist Akii Ngo who works closely with Bump Babes, to find out about nutrition in the second trimester of pregnancy, what foods can assist with your mood and what foods you should avoid.

What nutrients are important during the second  trimester?

Similar as trimester 1, but particularly calcium and iron, especially needed for bone and cell growth as well as blood to carry oxygen to the foetus.

Trimester 2 (T2) can be an easier or sometimes the easiest part of most women’s pregnancy. This stage is generally where nausea and vomiting symptoms cease, and energy levels normalise and increase from the first trimester. Women may notice more physical body changes such as a baby bump, back pain, breast changes (enlargement) and gum pain or bleeding. If gum bleeding or pain does occur, eat foods that are gentle and soothe the gums, use a soft brush and floss gently. Eating health foods, fruits and vegetables keep your gums healthy – as does good oral hygiene: brushing, flossing and rinsing. Smoking will worsen the bleeding and it is recommended that pregnant women not smoke; help can be found on the Quit website.

Congestion, nosebleeds, changes in vaginal discharge, frequent urination, breathlessness, swelling, spider veins and hair growth are also many of the changes that happen in T2 and can continue to T3. Regardless of the frequent urination, it is important to always maintain and keep hydrated during pregnancy to ensure blood pressure levels do not drop and you do not become dehydrated (particularly if you suffer from serious morning sickness). Having a healthy diet, plenty of rest and attending natal check-ups are important.

Trimester 2 is when you can increase your calorie intake by an extra 300-350 calories (1260-1470kJ) per day.

How should women expect to be feeling and how can food assist with this?

Heartburn (acid reflux) and constipation are also common symptoms towards the end of T1 and throughout T2. To avoid or help with heartburn, avoid eating spicy, greasy and fatty foods as well as over-eating; eating small, frequent meals help. For constipation, ensuring a diet high in fibre through fruits, vegetables (particularly prunes and papaya/pawpaw) and wholegrains will assist in this. There are last resort pharmaceutical substances such as laxatives which may help. If severe and painful constipation occurs, a doctor should be consulted.

Women may commonly have many food aversions or cravings. It is best to meet cravings with healthier alternatives rather than high saturated fat, low nutrition junk foods. However, moderation is key.

Weight gain can be most noticeable by T2 and all pregnant women are encouraged to remain active (especially if being active was common pre-pregnancy) and participate in low-weight bearing, gentle exercises such as walking or swimming. During pregnancy, healthy weight gain is approximately 5 - 10kg (or 20kg for twins). Excessive weight gain may be an indicator of over-indulging or other underlying issues.

Although not dietary related, women’s skin conditions usually change and are most noticed in T2. This is due to hormonal changes and also means that there is greater sensitivity to sunlight and burns. It is important to be sun smart at all times, particularly during pregnancy.

What foods should women avoid during this time?

There prominent foods that need to be avoided from beginning to end of pregnancy, from T1 to T3. This is because expectant mothers are at higher risk of illness due to pregnancy and the unborn children are more susceptible to illness. Avoid anything that is not 100% fully cooked and cleaned thoroughly:

  • Any raw foods (ensure all meats are cooked thoroughly without any pink bits),
  • Raw seafood (sushi, sashimi, oysters, shellfish)
  • Soft cheeses (brie, camembert, ricotta, fetta), deli /cured meats (turkey slices, ham, salami, etc.)
  • Pate (or any meat spreads)
  • Soft boiled or poached eggs, eggs with raw foods (mayonnaise, aioli, mousse, cake/pancake batters)
  • Soft serve ice creams, unpasteurised products (milk and dairy products)
  • Lightly cooked or raw bean sprouts (including alfalfa, broccoli, onion, peas, mung, soybean)
  • Ensure all vegetables and fruits are thoroughly cleaned
  • Alcohol (no safe level) as it is a toxic and could result in birth defects, foetal alcohol syndrome.
  • High mercury fish: swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, shark. Fully cooked salmon, catfish, cod and tuna are OK
  • Avoid taking vitamin A supplements (particularly retinol) or fish liver oil supplements as these are harmful to the baby’s growth and development, and cause deformities, especially in high doses
  • Regular amounts of high sugar foods which do not contribute to fuelling the child growth.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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