Pregnancy brings about tremendous change in a woman's body. Her hormone levels soar, her body changes shape, weight, and proportion, her blood volume increases, and all her systems work harder to provide for not only her needs, but those of her unborn baby, as well. This leads to a variety of symptoms, many of which are uncomfortable. A loss of appetite is no exception; many women find themselves unwilling or unable to eat from time to time during pregnancy.
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Appetite loss may occur at any time during pregnancy; for many women, it's one of the earliest symptoms. In their book "What To Expect When You're Expecting," Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel explain that nausea and vomiting can start quite early in pregnancy; some women experience these symptoms as early as the fourth week of gestation. Most women feel put off by foods that were once their favorites during the first trimester, and many have trouble keeping anything down at all, coupled with a lack of desire to eat anything that might induce nausea.
Some women find that their appetite improves during the second trimester. Notes Dr. Raymond Poliakin in his book, "What You Didn't Think To Ask Your Obstetrician," many symptoms common to the first trimester resolve during the second, only to return during the third. Women in their third trimesters of pregnancy may not have much of an appetite because their increasingly large baby pushes against their stomach, reducing its capacity and making it difficult to eat anything more than a few bites at a time.
Hormones and baby size aren't the only reasons for a woman to feel like she doesn't have much of an appetite during pregnancy. Many women have intestinal gas due to the slowing of the digestive tract, which can make the stomach feel full and distended. Further, note Murkoff and Mazel, the sphincter of the upper stomach relaxes during pregnancy, meaning that stomach acid is a common complaint of the second and third trimesters. Since eating often exacerbates acid stomach discomfort, women may find themselves feeling as though they don't want to eat to avoid symptoms.
Some of the reasons for loss of appetite during pregnancy are unavoidable, but others may benefit somewhat from a few at-home remedies. In her book "Conception, Pregnancy and Birth," Dr. Miriam Stoppard recommends frequent, small meals. These keep the stomach from feeling too full, help prevent nausea, and reduce acid reflux. Some women find that ginger, as in tea or ginger ale, helps reduce uncomfortable symptoms and restores appetite.
Many women worry that having little appetite during pregnancy will negatively affect their developing babies. In general, limited appetite during the first trimester isn't a problem. Dr. Poliakin notes that some women eat so little as to lose weight during their first three months. Later in pregnancy, most women recover enough to make up the lost weight and gain appropriately throughout the rest of the pregnancy. For women with severe loss of appetite, physicians may prescribe vitamins to prevent severe deficits. Poliakin notes that regardless of appetite, pregnant women do need to ensure that they're drinking plenty of water so they're maintaining adequate hydration.
- “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”; Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel; 2008
- “What You Didn’t Think to Ask Your Obstetrician”; Raymond Poliakin, M.D.; 2007
- “Conception, Pregnancy and Birth”; Miriam Stoppard, M.D.; 2008