Many women experience appetite loss during pregnancy.
You may occasionally find food unappealing, or you may feel hungry but can’t bring yourself to eat.
If you’re dealing with these symptoms, you may want to know possible reasons for your appetite loss, tips for treating it, and when to see a health professional.
This article explains all you need to know about appetite loss during pregnancy.
It’s normal for your appetite to fluctuate, especially as your body undergoes numerous changes during pregnancy.
If you lose your appetite, you may experience a general disinterest in all foods or a lack of desire to eat. Keep in mind that appetite loss differs from an aversion to a few specific foods, which is also fairly common during pregnancy.
Several factors may cause appetite loss during pregnancy, such as the following.
Nausea and vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are common during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester — though some women may experience these symptoms throughout their pregnancy (
Both mild and extreme cases of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy can significantly affect food intake and appetite.
A study in 2,270 pregnant women demonstrated that among women with moderate or severe nausea and vomiting, 42% and 70% reported a reduced level of food intake in early pregnancy, respectively (
If you’re experiencing appetite loss due to nausea and vomiting, try to avoid fatty or spicy foods, drink fluids separately from your meals, and eat small, more frequent meals.
You may more easily tolerate dry, salty snacks like pretzels and crackers, as well as bland foods like baked chicken breast.
However, you may need to see a health professional if you experience more serious cases of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
Mental health conditions
Various mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression, may affect your appetite.
In fact, pregnant women may be more prone to mental health issues due to various physical and biochemical changes. In particular, depression may lead to altered eating habits, including decreased appetite and a reduced intake of nutrient-dense foods (
In a study in 94 pregnant women, 51% of those diagnosed with depression had poor dietary intake, which increased to 71% after 6 months (
What’s more, depression during pregnancy is linked to a decreased appetite for healthy foods, an increased appetite for unhealthy foods, and lower intakes of important nutrients like folate, fatty acids, iron, and zinc. This may negatively affect fetal and maternal health (
Mental health disorders commonly go undiagnosed during pregnancy due to the shame that some pregnant women feel talking about them. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, it’s important to consult a trusted health professional.
Certain medications that are safe to use during pregnancy may cause side effects like decreased appetite.
If you’re pregnant and have an eating disorder, ask your healthcare provider for treatment options.
Other potential causes
Additionally, pregnancy-related changes to taste and smell, nutrient deficiencies in vitamin B12 and iron, and general discomfort from carrying a baby may cause appetite loss in some pregnant women (
Nausea and vomiting are some of the most common causes of appetite loss during pregnancy, though there are numerous other factors.
If you’re experiencing appetite loss, you may wonder how to get your eating back on track.
Foods to prioritize
There are a few foods you can prioritize even if you feel you can’t eat whole meals. These will help ensure adequate nutrient intake for you and your baby.
Many of the following foods are simple to make, small in portion size, filling, and easy on your stomach.
- Protein-rich snacks: hard-boiled eggs, Greek yogurt, roasted chickpeas, cheese and crackers, and sliced chicken, turkey, or ham served cold
- Bland, fiber-packed veggies: sweet potatoes, green beans, baby carrots (steamed or raw), and raw spinach salad
- Sweet, simple bites: fresh berries, oatmeal, dried fruit, and cold dairy products like plain cottage cheese
- Bland grains/starches: quinoa, brown rice, pasta, macaroni and cheese, and baked or mashed potato
- Soup: chicken noodle soup and chicken rice soup
- Liquids: simple broths and healthy smoothies
If your appetite loss is linked to nausea or vomiting, try eating small, more frequent meals, avoiding spicy and fatty foods, and supplementing with ginger and thiamine. If acupuncture is an option for you, it may also help (
Severe nausea and vomiting may require different treatment methods, including medications and intravenous (IV) fluids (
If you have nutrient deficiencies linked to appetite loss, you may need high-dose supplements to restore normal levels. Any supplements should be prescribed and monitored by a medical professional (
You can also consult your healthcare provider for individualized treatment.
If you’re experiencing appetite loss during pregnancy, you should prioritize bland, filling foods that are rich in nutrients.
If you’re experiencing occasional appetite loss or a loss of appetite for specific foods, there’s usually no need to worry as long as you’re consuming enough nutrients on a daily basis.
For example, if you’re eating nutrient-dense meals consistently and your weight gain is appropriate to promote fetal growth, occasional appetite loss should not be a concern.
Additionally, some pregnant women may lose their appetite for specific foods, including highly fragrant foods and meat. Yet, this is a relatively common occurrence and not typically a cause for concern.
However, if you’re regularly skipping meals or lose your appetite for more than a day, you should contact your healthcare provider for advice.
This is because it’s crucial to get enough nutrients to support your health, as well as the health of your growing baby.
Potential complications related to poor intake during pregnancy
Undernutrition can lead to many pregnancy-related complications, including poor fetal growth, low birth weight, and maternal weight loss. It’s also associated with lower mental function and behavioral problems in children (
Both macronutrients and micronutrients are essential to sustain a healthy pregnancy.
Chronic appetite loss during pregnancy can lead to undernutrition, which can cause many adverse health effects in both you and your baby.
As your body adjusts to pregnancy, you may find certain foods unappealing or experience a loss of appetite. Sometimes, you can’t bring yourself to eat even if you’re hungry.
Keep in mind that appetite loss is fairly common and often linked to other symptoms like nausea and vomiting. You may find that your appetite fluctuates, which is perfectly normal.
If you lose your appetite but still feel hungry, you can try eating small servings of bland, simple foods that are filling, rich in nutrients, and easy on your stomach.
If you experience chronic or long-lasting appetite loss, consult a health professional.