Always associated pregnancy with a voracious appetite for everything from pepperoni pizza to ice cream and pickles? Pregnancy is indeed that one special time of your adult life when gaining weight is applauded and eating every two hours is encouraged (lucky you!). But just as you begin stocking your refrigerator with healthy foods (and yes, sometimes those not-so-healthy cookies you’re craving), loss of appetite — plus its common sidekick, morning sickness — strikes, turning your nose at the sight and smell of your favorite foods.
Gaining enough pregnancy weight is the major signal that you’re eating enough to support your baby’s needs. Depending on your pre-pregnancy weight, most normal-weight women should aim to tack on between 25 and 35 pounds. During the first trimester, when morning sickness (known to many as all-day sickness) is at its worst, it’s common to only gain one to four pounds (or sometimes even lose weight). That’s okay. At this point your fetus is so tiny, it has fewer nutritional requirements — so as long as you’re taking your prenatal vitamin, you and baby-to-be should be covered.
After the first trimester, gaining about one pound per week is advised. If your appetite is still nowhere to be found by early in your second trimester, or if you aren't meeting the recommended weight gain in your third trimester, consult your doctor for a diet plan.
Still worried? Don’t be. You’re going to have easy days and difficult days — the big picture is what’s important. The good news is that most women find they can manage appetite loss with a few tricks. Here’s how to manage this particular pregnancy symptom.
Loss of Appetite in the First Trimester
What causes loss of appetite in the first trimester?
Loss of appetite often comes hand-in-hand with nausea during pregnancy, which affects about 75 percent of pregnant women (when you’re bent over a toilet on the regular, it’s no wonder your appetite is a bit shy these days). Morning sickness may be your body’s instinctual way of protecting the fetus from potentially harmful foods — explaining some of those food aversions women commonly experience.
Increasing hormones (including estrogen and the pregnancy hormone hCG — the ones responsible for making you cry at that car commercial) also play a role in increasing nausea and your sensitivity to smell while decreasing your appetite. You may even have a metallic taste in your mouth.
How can I meet my nutritional needs in the first trimester if I've lost my appetite?
Here are some tips for how to get the pregnancy nutrients you and baby-to-be if you're not very hungry early on.
Drink up. Ensuring you consume enough liquids is more important than a aiming for a certain caloric intake. Though it really depends on the mom-to-be and her lifestyle, try to aim for around eight to 10 8-ounce glasses a day from all sources, including fruits and vegetables. Warm water with lemon or ginger, ginger ale or ginger tea can be good substitutes for plain water if you're nauseous (always check in with your doctor before sipping any herbal tea or other drink, however, as some are off-limits during pregnancy).
Don’t overdo it. Eat six small meals a day (your body will probably let off hunger signals every two hours), which will satisfy your small appetite — instead of force-feeding yourself larger portions of food.
Eat lightly. For the moments during the day when your appetite makes a brief appearance, consume as much protein and complex carbs as you can, which will keep your blood sugar stable and keep you fuller for a bit longer. Fruits such as bananas may also be easier to stomach; pair with a spoonful of yogurt for added calcium and protein. And whole grain or plain crackers are almost always your friend.
Avoid strong-smelling foods. That includes spicy and fatty dishes — which may mean skipping fast food staples like burgers, fries and chicken nuggets and opting for something like a salad with grilled chicken or salmon if you can stomach it instead.
Use your good taste. Sure, variety is usually the spice of a good nutritional life. But if you find spinach makes you queasy while you can stomach kale, by all means eat the kale. You’ll get back to the spinach soon enough.
Change the temperature. Many women prefer their foods and drinks chilled when they're pregnant, while others like it hot. If you fit one of those categories, adjust your diet accordingly if that works.
Take your vitamin. Make taking your prenatal vitamin as routine as brushing your teeth. Ideally, start taking the vitamin at least a month before conception, or at a minimum, at the time of conception. This will help fill in temporary nutritional gaps.
Get additional help. To help combat nausea, talk to your doctor about taking a special prenatal vitamin with extra B6 or the FDA-approved Diclegis, which contains a combination of vitamin B and antihistamine (these may help decrease nausea and increase your appetite).