4 Common Causes Of Food Aversions During Pregnancy

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Food aversion during pregnancy is a common problem. Some pregnant women may not feel like eating anything, or their favorite foods are not delicious anymore. It is normal for pregnant women to feel nauseous from the taste and smell of some foods they loved before. Food aversion is challenging to manage, especially if a pregnant woman does not enjoy eating anything.

Like cravings, food aversions can also be linked to a heightened sense of taste and smell in pregnancy. Read on to understand the causes of food aversions in pregnancy, tips to manage it, and how to follow a balanced diet at such times.

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.

It is normal to have food aversions in pregnancy. Some women may not like the taste of their favorite foods during pregnancy. Most pregnant women experience food aversions in the early weeks of pregnancy. While a few may have it throughout their pregnancy. Morning sickness, hormonal changes, maternal-embryo protection hypothesis, and changes or heightened taste and smell sensitivity can be the culprits of food aversions in pregnancy. You may plan a pregnancy diet with balanced nutrition and alternative sources of nutrition. Most women may also develop aversions to coffee, or other caffeinated beverages, poultry, meat, and spicy foods during pregnancy.

References:

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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. M.Margaret Weigel, Kathyrn Coe and Nancy P. Castro et al., Food Aversions and Cravings During Early Pregnancy: ; Association With Nausea and Vomiting. Research Gate.
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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Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist and toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different organizations. Her interest in scientific writing... more