What Causes Food Aversions During Pregnancy And How To Overcome Them?

Food Aversion During Pregnancy

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Don’t feel like eating anything? Not even your favorite foods like chocolate or a pizza?

Like cravings, food aversions are a normal occurrence during pregnancy. You may find some foods so repulsive that you feel pukish to their smell or taste. It’s like developing a sudden dislike to the foods you enjoyed before. Food aversion may be annoying since they don’t let you eat properly, but it can be managed.

Read this MomJunction post to know more about food aversions during pregnancy, its causes, common aversions, and tips to overcome it.

When Does Food Aversion Start In Pregnancy?

A study has found that 54% of pregnant women experienced food aversions during early pregnancy (1). The condition could occur at any stage of pregnancy, but it is more likely during early pregnancy or the first trimester. These aversions may go away as the pregnancy progresses or after you deliver (2).

What Causes Food Aversions During Pregnancy?

The exact cause of food aversion in pregnancy is not known, but researchers have a few theories.

  1. Hormonal fluctuations: Just like the behavioral and physiological changes during pregnancy, food aversions could also be due to hormonal changes. However, there is no connection between food cravings and aversions.
  1. Morning sickness: Nausea is more common during the early months of pregnancy and could be responsible for food aversions. For instance, just the smell of certain foods can make you may feel nauseated (3).
  1. Sensitivity to taste and smell: During pregnancy, a woman’s senses are heightened. Abnormal or increased taste and smell sensitivity could stop you from having any foods. For instance, sensitivity to a bitter taste may stop you from having even tea, coffee or chocolate (4).
  1. Maternal-embryo protection hypothesis: It states that certain mechanisms that don’t allow pregnant women to have foods that contain toxins or pathogens. It is to protect the woman and her baby. This could also be a cause for food aversions (5).

But what foods could you become averse to? Can you even eat anything? Find out more about it next.

Common Pregnancy Food Aversions

All pregnant women are not repulsive to the same foods. Food aversion depends on several factors and varies accordingly. But in general, most pregnant women tend to be averse to these foods.

  1. Spices or spicy foods: You may be averse to hot and spicy foods especially during the first trimester when you have nausea and vomiting (6).
  1. Caffeine: Pregnant women may also have an aversion to caffeine. According to a study on caffeine consumption, 65% of the women had expressed their aversion to drinking coffee when they were pregnant (7). Some expectant mothers reduce the intake of tea too.
  1. Poultry, meat, and seafood: Food aversions to eggs, meat, chicken, fish, and other seafood were also reported during pregnancy. There was a reduction in the consumption of these foods during their pregnancy (8) (9).
  1. Others: Pregnant women could be averse to dairy products, fried food, and starchy foods too.

Can You Prevent Food Aversions During Pregnancy?

No, there is no way to prevent the condition. However, you can try to control the nausea and get over the aversion. If you understand your body’s requirements and address the changes accordingly, you could probably overcome the aversions.

Read on for some simple tips that can help you deal with these aversions.

How To Overcome Food Aversions During Pregnancy?

Food aversions will normalize with time and should not be a cause of concern.

  1. If you have an aversion to specific foods, find substitutes for them.
  1. Do not stay hungry for a long time. An empty stomach for a long time could also make you nauseous and averse to food.
  1. Try to distract yourself for a while and eat foods you crave for. However, see that you have them in moderation.
  1. Eat something that can soothe your tummy. You may try mints, lemon candies, or something gingery.
  1. To prevent nausea and vomiting, eat in small portions and at regular intervals.
  1. Focus on eating healthy.
  1. See that you are getting proper sleep.
  1. Try to cook your own food and make it palatable.
  1. Talk to your doctor and check if you can take prenatal vitamins to meet your nutrient requirements. The doctor might even prescribe you medicines to get rid of nausea and vomiting.
  1. Avoid unhealthy food as they might not be good for you and your baby.

Food aversion is a temporary condition and won’t bother you for long.

How Long Does Food Aversions Last In Pregnancy?

Food aversions can appear and disappear at any point during pregnancy, although they are more common during the first three to four months. Food aversions usually disappear after the delivery, but in some cases, they may continue post delivery too.

When Should You Call The Doctor?

When you have aversions to spicy food or fried stuff or something manageable, you need not worry much. However, if you are averse to all the healthy foods and experience cravings for non-edible things such as clay or paper (medically known as pica), then you should talk to your doctor.

Your appetite and tastes vary throughout pregnancy, owing to the bodily changes. Instead of worrying about why it is happening, figure out what your body needs. Distract yourself from unhealthy food habits and focus on healthy eating. And when in doubt, talk to your doctor about it and seek your partner’s support.

Did you experience food aversions during pregnancy? Let us know in the comments section below.

References:

1. T. M. Bayley et al.; Food cravings and aversions during pregnancy: relationships with nausea and vomiting; School of Psychology (2002)
2. M. M. Weigel et al.; Food aversions and cravings during early pregnancy: association with nausea and vomiting; Human Nutrition and Immunology Research Laboratory University of Texas (2011)
3. Issue Paper on Physiological and Behavioral Changes in Pregnant and Lactating Women and Available Exposure Factors; Office of Research and Development U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Washington (2015)
4. S. Nordin, D. A. Broman, J. K. Olofsson, and M. Wulff; A longitudinal descriptive study of self-reported abnormal smell and taste perception in pregnant women; Oxford Academic (2004)
5. L. McKerracher and M. Collard; Food aversions and cravings during pregnancy on Yasawa Island, Fiji; Harvard University (2016)
6. Innate food aversions and culturally transmitted food taboos in pregnant women in rural southwest India: separate systems to protect the fetus?; College of Arts & Sciences Biology (2017)
7. C. C. Lawson, G. K. LeMasters, and K. A. Wilson; Changes in caffeine consumption as a signal of pregnancy; Reproductive Toxicology (2004)
8. N. Hainutdzinava, K. Weatherstone, and J. Worobey; Food cravings and aversions during Pregnancy: A Current Snapshot; Journal of Pediatrics and Mother Care (2017)
9. L. L. Kaiser and L. Allen; Position of The American Dietetic Association; Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2002)

 

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