Feeling hungry after you wake up in the morning is not unusual. Waking up hungry in the middle of the night or feeling hungry less than a couple of hours after a meal is also not unusual when you are pregnant.
Expectant women might experience hunger pangs and cravings at odd hours of the day as their body changes. In this MomJunction post, we explain why you could have these hunger pangs and how to deal with them.
What Are Hunger Pangs?
Hunger pangs or hunger pain is an uncomfortable, gnawing feeling you have when your abdomen is empty. Hunger pangs are natural reactions to an empty stomach and are accompanied by a desire to eat. You may also experience these in the case of dehydration, sleep deprivation, or eating certain foods.
Can Hunger Pains Be A Sign Of Pregnancy?
Hunger pangs could be an early sign of pregnancy, as the hormonal levels change with conception (1). However, this cannot be a standalone symptom of pregnancy and should be seen in association with more significant symptoms such as missing your period.
Is It Normal To Frequently Feel Hungry During Pregnancy?
It is common to feel hungry or have an increased appetite during pregnancy. In the first trimester, the hunger pangs could be due to morning sickness, as you tend to throw up often and your stomach gets empty often. Some women lose their appetite due to nausea and may lose the desire to eat or not feel hungry, especially in the first trimester (2).
From the second trimester, your growing fetus will need extra nutrients, which might increase the body’s need for nutrition and make you feel hungry often. Also, you need around 300 to 500 extra calories and 50-70g of protein to meet fetal growth and nutrition needs during the second and third trimesters (3).
Dealing With Hunger Pangs During Pregnancy
Do not overeat or binge when you are feeling hungry as that could lead to unwanted weight gain. You can avoid that by eating right and managing your hunger pangs.
- Include homemade soups and salads as they can be made nutritious and with fewer sugars and saturated fats. You may have homemade soups of vegetables and salads of fruits. Choose apple cider vinegar or virgin olive oil for healthy salad dressing.
- Stay hydrated by drinking water. It not only beats your hunger but also keeps you satiated all through the day. Stick to water and avoid drinks that contain excess sugars and calories.
- Create a healthy diet plan that includes whole-grain bread or brown rice for daytime meals. The fiber-rich food products prevent indigestion and help manage constipation. Fiber-rich foods are also filling and can reduce hunger pangs. If you are craving for midnight snacks, choose foods that are easy to digest. Try herbal tea, toast with peanut butter, or a bowl of cereal with milk.
- Eating dry fruits and dates early in the morning might help reduce nausea and hunger pangs.
- Carry healthy snacks such as trail mix, biscuits, or fruit if you have to go for work, or when away from home. This keeps you from purchasing outside food that might be unhealthy.
- Do not skip fats but choose the right types to satiate your hunger pains. Avoid saturated and hydrogenated fats found in packaged foods such as chips. Include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as omega-3s. Safe choices include olives, avocados, salmon, sardines, sunflower oil, soya oil, and flaxseed oil.
- Consuming food rich in unsaturated fats such as groundnuts can keep you full for long.
- Eat slowly and chew longer. Your brain can take up to 20 minutes to feel full after eating. Therefore, you may tend to overeat and later feel full (4).
- Eat frequently and split the meals to have several small meals instead of three large ones. The appearance of a full plate could make you feel hungrier than you are and make you eat more. As a trick, serve food in small plates.
- Proper sleep is essential during pregnancy. But if hunger is disturbing your sleep and keeping you up in the middle of the night, eat tryptophan-rich foods that help regulate sleep. These foods stimulate the serotonin and melatonin levels in the body, thereby regulating your sleep-wake cycle. Banana, almonds, skimmed milk, whole-wheat bread, and oatmeal are examples of such foods you can have during pregnancy (5). Consult your doctor before eating trytophan-rich food.
- If you have not gained the required weight in the first trimester, or have lost weight due to morning sickness, your body might start craving food. So, check your pregnancy weight regularly.
Hunger pangs during pregnancy rarely need medical assistance as they could be the body’s way of telling you that you need nourishment. Huger will go away once you eat something, and the odd-hour hunger pangs will eventually decrease as you near the end of the third trimester.
How did you deal with hunger pangs during your pregnancy? Share your experiences with us in the comment section below.
2. Hyperemesis gravidarum; NIH (2018)
3. Effect Of Obesity On Pregnancy; University of Utah
4. Ann MacDonald; Why eating slowly may help you feel full faster; Harvard Health Publishing (2010)
5. Mehmet C. Oz and Michael F. Roizen; 5 Foods That Help You Sleep Better; Palm Beach State College