Tips To Deal With Appetite Loss During Pregnancy

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Appetite loss during pregnancy is common. Nausea, food aversion, and several other pregnancy-related food issues may occur in women during this time, making them eat less than the recommended proportions (1). Although appetite loss subsides mostly by the end of the first trimester, contact your doctor if it persists or worsens. Poor appetite during pregnancy might cause malnourishment in the developing fetus and adversely affect the mother’s health.

Read on to know about the causes and complications of loss of appetite during pregnancy and ways that may help fulfill your nutritional needs.

In This Article

Reasons For Appetite Loss During First Trimester

Nausea and vomiting may lead to appetite loss during pregnancy

Image: Shutterstock

Morning sickness, nausea, and vomiting are the main reasons women have less or no appetite during pregnancy in the first trimester. According to the UK National Childbirth Trust (NCT), 50 to 80 percent of expecting mothers experience them early in pregnancy (2). Additionally, sensitivity to strong smells and the development of a metallic taste in the mouth are other reasons for food aversion, leading to appetite reduction. Fluctuation in pregnancy hormone levels (leptiniXA hormone released by the adipose tissue or body fat, leptin’s primary function is to maintain the body weight for the long term. and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)) is another possible cause.

Nurul Ali, a mom, shares how morning sickness during pregnancy affected her appetite. She says, “I still remember that very night when I felt the first signs of nausea. My parents had bought me supper, and I just couldn’t get myself out of bed. Strangely, I didn’t feel like I could down any food at the time. Within the next few days, lethargy hit me hard, and my appetite deteriorated… Have to admit, I recalled feeling a small percentage of happiness for the fact that I was having morning sickness because it signified my pregnancy! (i).”

Pre-existing disordered eating can be another reason for a woman not eating enough during pregnancy. Pregnancy and its related discomforts may exacerbate an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa (intense calorie restriction due to eating very low amounts or exercising too much). Weight gain and changes in body shape may also trigger anorexia. Women with eating disorders may have an increased risk for stillbirth, premature delivery, having low birth weight babies, and difficulty while breastfeeding (3) (4)

Generally, reduced appetite in the first trimester doesn’t affect the health of the mother or the baby. However, in severe cases, it can lead to adverse outcomes. For instance, a mother with hyperemesis gravidarumiXIt is a term used to describe the persistent and extreme form of vomiting and nausea in pregnant women. It can cause dizziness and dehydration. (HG) can experience persistent and severe pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting, leading to a lack of appetite, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalances (5). So, what can you do to ensure that you and your growing fetus get optimum nourishment?

protip_icon Point to consider
Certain medications, like Zoloft, can cause appetite suppression and weight loss during pregnancy (8).

Tips To Meet The Nutritional Needs In The First Trimester

Here are some practical tips to ensure you get the nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy.

  1. Have small frequent meals: Frequent vomiting or nausea can cause severe food aversion and decreased hunger. If you are facing this issue, don’t force-feed yourself. Instead, break your three big meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) into four to five smaller meals and eat at regular intervals. This way, the amount of food you eat in a meal is much less, which helps keep the food down in the stomach. Also, eating smaller portions of food at regular intervals helps keep your blood sugar levels in good control.

Note: If the appetite loss is due to disordered eating, you may try drinking protein shakes when you cannot eat healthy meals or snacks. However, do not use protein shakes to replace meals. Instead, use them to get consistent nourishment (3).

  1. Make healthy choices: Whenever you feel hungry during the day, eat healthy, easily digestible foods, such as bananas, unsweetened yogurts or smoothies, and whole-grain crackers. Eating healthy foods containing plenty of protein, fiber, and other essential nutrients ensures you and your baby get sufficient nourishment.

    Whole grain crackers are a healthy snack choice during pregnancy

    Image: Shutterstock

  1. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water and other fluids to keep yourself hydrated. It’s vital to fight dehydration that can occur due to reduced food intake. So, drink unsweetened, homemade lemonade, smoothies, and vegetable juices. Coconut water, buttermilk, and infused water are other fluids you can consume in between meals to ensure you get nutrients even if you don’t have sufficient food intake..
  1. Avoid foods with a strong smell: If you can’t stand the smell of your favorite food now, you aren’t alone. Food aversion due to a particular smell is fairly common in early and also later stages of pregnancy in some cases. If the smell of a particular food is bothering you, try masking its smell with other aromatic foods or herbs.
  1. Consume prenatal vitamins: Take your prenatal vitamins daily. If you have any insufficiency or deficiency, pay special attention to consuming supplements. Talk to your doctor to know if you need any additional vitamins or minerals. You may also consider consulting a nutritionist to make a well-balanced meal plan suited for your appetite.

    Prenatal vitamins are essential for pregnant women

    Image: Shutterstock

Besides, seek prompt medical guidance if you are completely unable to eat. Your healthcare professional may prescribe medicines that can reduce nausea or vomiting and help regain your appetite.

Note: Chronic appetite loss can cause undernutrition, leading to a higher risk of poor fetal growth, low birth weight, and preterm labor.

Reasons For Appetite Loss During Second Trimester

Most women overcome nausea and vomiting by the 14th week of pregnancy (6). However, it may continue for a few more months or until the end of pregnancy for some women. Then, several women experience reduced appetite due to their growing bellies, which press on their stomachs, making them feel full quickly. Rising progesterone levels is another issue that may reduce appetite by making the gastrointestinal movement sluggish and slowing down digestion. Mental health conditions, such as anxiety and prenatal depression, may also affect appetite.

According to research, depression may reduce one’s appetite, especially for healthy food, and increase intake of unhealthy foods (7). Poor diet quality can affect the mother and her unborn baby’s health. Hence, if you feel anxious or depressed, contact your healthcare provider. Don’t shy away from opening up about mental health blues. Instead, get them treated so that they don’t affect your eating habits negatively.

protip_icon Research finds
A small study showed the association between antenatal depression and poor dietary intake, leading to fetal complications such as fetal growth retardation and preterm birth (14).

Tips To Meet The Nutritional Needs In The Second Trimester

If you are in your second trimester and still have appetite issues, adhere to your first trimester rituals. In addition, pay attention to specific nutrients that will support your baby’s rapid growth and development during this trimester (8) (9).

  1. Calcium: You need 1000 micrograms (mcg) of calcium per day during pregnancy. The body needs calcium to regulate body fluids and support the growth and development of your baby’s bones and teeth.
  1. Protein: Pregnant women need 71g of protein per day. They require more protein to increase blood supply during pregnancy. Additionally, they need extra protein to support the breast and uterine tissuesiXThe uterus has three tissue layers, namely the endometrium, the innermost layer that takes part in menstruation and reproduction; myometrium, or the muscle layer; and the perimetrium, the thin outer layer. growth and fetal brain development.
  1. Folate: Women need 600 micrograms (mcg) of folate daily. This micronutrient is required for the development of the baby’s healthy nervous system. Also, it reduces the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifidaiXIt is a congenital neural tube defect where the baby’s spinal cord does not form properly. .

    Folate supplements may help meet the nutritional requirements

    Image: IStock

  1. Iron: Blood volume during pregnancy increases. It happens because your body is making blood for you and your baby. Hence, expecting mothers require 27mg of iron daily.

Besides these, focus on your Omega-3 and Vitamin C intake during pregnancy. You need Omega-3 fats for the healthy development of your baby’s heart, eye, and brain. On the other hand, Vitamin C is vital for facilitating several physiological functions, including your baby’s tooth and bone development.

Reasons For Appetite Loss During Third Trimester

Most pregnant women do not experience nausea and vomiting in the third trimester. Therefore, there is no true appetite loss in the third trimester. However, the growing tummy in the third trimester causes laborious breathing, making eating uncomfortable. Women also experience slow digestion, pregnancy-induced heartburn (acid refluxiXIt is also called gastric reflux and is a condition where stomach acid flows back into the esophagus (food pipe), causing chest pain. ), and constipation in the third trimester, hampering their appetite further.

Tips To Meet The Nutritional Needs In The Third Trimester

Protein and fiber-rich diet for pregnant women

Image: Shutterstock

Adhere to healthy eating and active lifestyle practices even in the last trimester. Focus on the following steps in particular to fight digestive issues, such as heartburn and constipation:

  • Eat small portions of food at regular intervals
  • Consume high-protein, high-fiber foods from different food groups
  • Drink plenty of water and fluids
  • Stand and eat if you find it inconvenient to sit while eating
protip_icon Point to consider
Doing moderate exercises regularly increases blood circulation and provides more oxygen to organs, including the bowels, allowing them to perform more effectively (15). Thus, it may help prevent appetite loss and other digestive issues during pregnancy.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can not eating enough cause miscarriage?

Studies indicate that not eating enough may create nutritional deficiencies in your body. If this becomes severe, it may increase the risk of spontaneous abortion (10).

2. What should my appetite be like in early pregnancy?

Women may have different experiences with appetite in early pregnancy. Some may start craving certain foods or feel constantly hungry, while others may face food aversions and a reduced appetite (mostly due to morning sickness). Taste preferences may also change (11).

3. How long can I go without eating during pregnancy?

Generally, it is recommended to have three small and balanced meals and three snacks a day during pregnancy (12). So, it is advisable not to go more than two to three hours without eating.

Expectant mothers may experience a loss of appetite due to various body and hormonal changes in pregnancy. The reasons for appetite loss in pregnancy may be different in each trimester and include morning sickness, vomiting, depression, having unhealthy food, and nausea. You may have small, frequent meals, drink plenty of water, eat protein and fiber-rich foods, and pay attention to specific nutrients to meet the nutritional needs in the first trimester. Appetite loss can be temporary and harmless. However, consult your doctor if it persists.

Infographic: Pregnancy Smoothies To Cope With Morning Sickness

Morning sickness is a significant cause of reduced appetite during pregnancy. Adding ingredients that alleviate nausea and vomiting in your pregnancy diet can help improve your appetite. This can be efficiently done through yummy smoothies. The infographic below lists some delicious smoothie recipes to help you cope with the situation.

pregnancy smoothies to cope with morning sickness (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • The reasons for losing appetite during pregnancy may vary with each trimester.
  • Nausea, vomiting, morning sickness, and growing uterus can be some reasons.
  • Consuming small and frequent meals, choosing healthy options, identifying foods that cause nausea could help you meet the nutritional demands.

Personal Experience: Source

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Appetite changes and food aversions during pregnancy.
    https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/appetite-changes-and-food-aversions-during-pregnancy
  2. Am I pregnant? Early signs and symptoms.
    https://www.nct.org.uk/pregnancy/am-i-pregnant/am-i-pregnant-early-signs-and-symptoms
  3. Managing pregnancy when mom has an eating disorder.
    https://utswmed.org/medblog/pregnancy-eating-disorder-anorexia/
  4. Eating disorders in pregnancy.
    https://www.nct.org.uk/pregnancy/food-and-nutrition/eating-disorders-pregnancy
  5. Hyperemesis gravidarum.
    https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001499.htm
  6. Morning Sickness: Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy.
    https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/morning-sickness-nausea-and-vomiting-of-pregnancy
  7. T. S. Sathyanarayana Rao et al.; (2008); Understanding nutrition depression and mental illnesses.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2738337/
  8. Pregnancy Nutrition.
    https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/pregnancy-nutrition/
  9. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025.
    https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf
  10. Rahimeh Ahmadi et al.; (2017); Association between Nutritional Status with Spontaneous Abortion.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5134748/
  11. Am I Pregnant?
    https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9709-pregnancy-am-i-pregnant
  12. Diet During Pregnancy.
    https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/diet-during-pregnancy/#
  13. Lisa M. Bodnar et al.; (2006); Treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors during pregnancy: deceleration of weight gain because of depression or drug?
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4291021/
  14. Ayesha Saeed et al.; (2016); Effect of antenatal depression on maternal dietary intake and neonatal outcome: a prospective cohort.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4939634/
  15. Gastrointestinal Issues During Pregnancy.
    https://www.lifespan.org/centers-services/multidisciplinary-obstetric-medicine-service-moms/gi-issues-pregnancy
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