Extreme Hunger Pains in Late Pregnancy

Hunger and digestive discomfort are familiar sensations to most pregnant women, especially those in their last few months or weeks of pregnancy. Your growing baby puts increasing pressure on your stomach, making it difficult and uncomfortable to eat a full meal. There are a few ways to increase your comfort, however.

Close-up of a doctor examining a pregnant woman's stomach. (Image: Keith Brofsky/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Pregnancy and Hunger

In early pregnancy, many women feel nauseated and may not be hungry. By late pregnancy, however, you'll likely feel the opposite. Your growing baby puts ever-increasing demands for energy on your body, and the result is that you need to take in more calories than usual. In their book "You: Having A Baby," Drs. Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz estimate that the typical pregnant woman needs 300 extra calories each day to maintain appropriate weight.

Digestive Pain

It can be hard to tell, when you're pregnant, whether the pain you are feeling in your stomach is due to hunger or something else entirely. Pregnant women -- especially those in their third trimester -- are also subject to acid stomach and heartburn, as well as to pain from an over-filled stomach after a "normal" meal. These pains are all due to a smaller than normal stomach, explain Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel in their book "What To Expect When You're Expecting."

What To Do

If you suffer from hunger pains in late pregnancy, the best thing to do is to eat healthy, nutrient-dense meals at regular intervals. You should be prepared for the fact that you'll probably only be able to eat a fraction of what you'd normally eat, so plan on snacking throughout the day instead of sitting down to full plates of food. Carbohydrates in combination with proteins make particularly satisfying, filling snacks.

A Caveat

If you're gaining more weight than your doctor recommends during your pregnancy, you should avoid eating every time you feel hungry. For one thing, too much weight gain isn't healthy and puts both you and your fetus at risk. For another thing, you may not actually be hungry; sometimes the digestive woes of pregnancy can make you feel hungry when you aren't. Talk to your obstetrician for guidance if you are concerned about your weight gain.

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