As soon as you find out that you're expecting a baby, you should also expect to go through a lot of changes in your body. The kind of changes that you go through is not just limited to your body changes. Most women also experience appetite loss during pregnancy.
Many women will start feeling the urge to “eat for two” and attempt to battle through their pregnancy cravings and the foods that they want because of their increased appetite but should be avoided.
On the other hand, some may experience food aversion - a dislike of eating certain foods. There's a strong possibility that this can occur as a result of certain foods being unappealing to you, or maybe you do feel hungry but can’t bring yourself to eat something.
Although this is common for many pregnant women, it’s important to understand the reasoning behind the changes in your eating and learn what you can do to treat it!
What Causes Appetite Changes During Pregnancy?
Your eating habits fluctuate and adjust throughout your entire life, so it’s no surprise that it continues to change during your pregnancy as well.
If you notice that you’re starting to lose your appetite, it can be due to your disinterest in certain foods or the lack of desire to eat altogether.
It’s important to know the difference between low appetite and food aversion. Food aversion is the strong dislike of certain kinds of food, whereas a low or loss of appetite occurs when you don’t have the desire to eat at all.
Food aversions are extremely common, such as:
- Fatty food
- Spicy food
Many things can cause these changes such as:
Many women can attest to morning sickness (nausea and vomiting) being one common pregnancy discomfort, as about 65% of pregnant women experience nausea and vomiting during their term - especially during their first trimester of pregnancy.
It’s very common for women who experience nausea and vomiting during pregnancy to also undergo a reduced level of food intake.
To combat this, try avoiding certain foods that increase the effects of nausea like very sweet foods, spicy foods, fried foods, and hot foods. Different scents can also trigger nausea so you may even want to try eating outside in the fresh air to avoid being triggered by an unwanted scent.
You might discover that you're better off resorting to dry and salty snacks, such as pretzels and crackers. Try not to drink too many fluids with your food because this combination can also cause you to vomit. It’s a better idea to eat smaller meals, more frequently throughout the day.
Different kinds of mental health conditions, such as depression, stress, and anxiety, can play a role in affecting your appetite before labor.
Many stressors can arise to the surface when expecting a child - having to adjust to the body changes, going through pregnancy symptoms and discomforts, anticipating the delivery of your child.
Your body will experience physical and chemical changes if and when you’re stressed during your pregnancy. Specifically, these changes include alterations to your eating habits.
Of course, certain kinds of medication are safe during pregnancy, but some can have side effects like a decrease in appetite.
For instance, taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can cause a loss of appetite, getting full quicker, and weight loss.
Tips On How To Treat Appetite Loss
If you’re experiencing loss of appetite during pregnancy and wanting to get your eating habits back on track, here are some tips on how to treat it:
Prioritize certain foods and small meals even if you find it difficult to consume large, whole meals. This will help to ensure you get all the nutrients you need for yourself and for your baby to grow healthy.
The following foods are easy (easy to make and easy on your stomach) and adequate options that you should prioritize:
- Protein-rich snacks: hard-boiled eggs, greek yogurt, cheese and crackers, roasted chickpeas, sliced turkey or chicken
- Fiber-filled vegetables: sweet potatoes, green beans, baby carrots, raw spinach
- Sweet snacks: berries, oatmeal, dried fruit
- Grains: pasta, brown rice, mashed or baked potato, quinoa
- Liquids: soups, broths, smoothies
Not only can it be challenging to figure out what to eat, but also how much to eat. Growing a baby in your belly is quite the responsibility and remembering to eat the right amount of food and the right nutrients can be overwhelming.
To state the obvious, you're now eating for two, but that doesn't necessarily mean you need to eat twice as much food. Pregnant women need about 300 extra calories per day, but what's more important is where these calories come from.
We've broken down the right amount of calories for each trimester for normal-weight pregnant women:
- First trimester: About 1,800 calories per day
- Second trimester: About 2,200 calories per day
- Third trimester: About 2,400 calories per day
Your baby needs healthy and proper nutrients to grow and develop, which means eating extra sweets and unhealthy snacks aren't going to fuel your body or help your baby's health. Of course, you should still treat yourself to the snacks you love and crave but instead of resorting to junk food for these extra calories, choose foods that are:
- High in protein
- Low in sugar
- High in calcium
- High in vitamin A and C
As a general guideline, its typically normal for a healthy (normal weight) pregnant woman to gain about 25 to 25 pounds during pregnancy. If you're overweight, you should be gaining only 10 to 20 pounds, and if you're underweight, you should be gaining 25 to 45 pounds.
It's best to ask with your doctor or midwife how much weight you should gain based on your weight going into pregnancy.
What Does It Mean? Is Loss of Appetite a Sign of Labor?
Many women are on the edge of their seats during pregnancy, thinking that losing an appetite, experiencing a "baby drop" or Braxton hicks contractions means that their body is preparing for labor - However, this isn't always true.
It is common for women to lose their appetite in the days or weeks leading up to labor. This is often due to the nesting instinct, as well as a general increase in anxiety and excitement. For some women, this loss of appetite can be significant, and they may even feel nauseous or dizzy.
Appetite loss can potentially signify that your body is anticipating for labor to start. One of the reasons why is that pre-labor pains, bodily changes, and the anxiety leading up to your due date can suppress your hunger and make food seem less appealing to you.
Although many women attribute the loss of appetite as a sign that labor and delivery are approaching, this should not be taken as a standalone indication of your body going into active labor.
Is It Normal to Lose Your Appetite at the End of Pregnancy?
It's common for women to experience a loss of appetite during the third trimester of pregnancy. There are a number of reasons why this may happen. As the baby grows, the uterus puts pressure on the stomach, which can lead to nausea and loss of appetite. Morning sickness may also play a role, as can fatigue and changes in hormone levels. In some cases, loss of appetite may be a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as gestational diabetes. If you're experiencing loss of appetite, talk to your doctor or midwife. They can help you determine if there's a cause for concern and offer suggestions on how to increase your appetite.
When Will Your Appetite Change Postpartum?
Many new mothers will say that they have a smaller palate even after giving birth to their baby, after their pregnancy comes to an end.
The main cause of this is the lingering feeling of being tired or feeling pain. Additionally, with a new member of the family requiring a lot of attention, you may feel too overwhelmed or busy to focus on making meals for yourself.
It's important to focus on eating healthy foods while you recovery from labor. Even small, frequent meals can keep your energy up until your appetite returns back to normal.
You may feel this appetite shortage for a couple weeks after giving birth, but if it lasts too long, it could be a sign of postpartum depression. Contact your doctor to get a medical opinion if this symptom lasts or if you're feeling other symptoms of depression as well.
Take one day at a time (one change at a time) and try not to get overwhelmed by all the changes you go through during your pregnancy. Remember that it’s completely normal that you can't eat during pregnancy.
Take it one step at a time and be sure to reach out for professional help if you experience chronic or long-lasting appetite loss.