Many women are afraid of gaining weight during pregnancy. Some pregnant women even experience a loss of appetite, especially during the early weeks or months of their pregnancy. Is this normal?
Some of the symptoms women feel in relation to this lack of appetite during pregnancy include feeling generally sick, feeling nauseous, and actually vomiting. Others are extra sensitive to the smell of food, which makes them feel sick, while others get a sour taste in the mouth that makes them not want to eat at all. Some women do not feel like eating anything and can last many hours without eating, although it makes their stomach growl. However, some women crave only certain foods while hating other kinds of food. Having mood swings also affects their lack of interest in food. Because of the loss of appetite, these women usually lose weight in early pregnancy.
More than 50% of pregnant women suffer from lack of appetite and nausea during the first three months of pregnancy, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Typically, these symptoms begin around the sixth week of pregnancy. But for many women, these symptoms start to diminish around the twelfth week. Furthermore, appetite loss for most women occurs only during the early stages of pregnancy and may be controlled by simple modifications in behavior.
Causes of Appetite Loss
Nausea or morning sickness, vomiting, and loss of appetite during the first trimester are common symptoms most pregnant women experience. These are normal symptoms of early pregnancy and there is no reason to worry. Sometimes the symptoms extend beyond the first trimester, but they are usually temporary. However, if these are prolonged, dehydration and nutritional deficiency may occur, in which case medical consultation must be sought.
The main reason that you may be losing appetite during the early part of your pregnancy is nausea. The feeling of being nauseated reduces your desire to eat. Nausea and vomiting are often referred to as "morning sickness", because they usually occur in the early part of the day, although some women may continue to have this feeling throughout the day and night.
Obstetricians say that these normal symptoms usually begin at the sixth week of pregnancy and end by the twelfth week, but for some women this may last during her whole pregnancy period. If vomiting is severe it can lead to dehydration, and if prolonged it can lead to nutritional deficiencies that will not be good for either the mother or the baby. Medical consultation must be sought.
During pregnancy the body adapts to the presence of the fetus in the uterus in order to support its growth and development. Progesterone, a female hormone, increases to cause thickening of the uterine lining, an adaptation to accommodate the baby. However, one side effect of increased progesterone is the slowing down of the digestive system, which can result in a decrease in your appetite.
Many women become constipated during pregnancy. This may be caused by the increase in progesterone levels and by the supplemental iron intake given by many obstetricians to pregnant women. When you are constipated you may pass hard stools or have difficulty defecating. This may lead to appetite loss. Constipation may also continue into the later part of pregnancy when the enlarging baby in the uterus presses on the bowels, making bowel movements difficult. This can make you feel full, thereby inhibiting your appetite.
Some women also experience appetite loss during the late stages of pregnancy. As your baby grows, your uterus presses on the stomach, making you feel less hungry. You may also feel fuller, making eating difficult.
Stress during any stage of your pregnancy may cause appetite loss and be associated with other symptoms, such as mood changes and tiredness.
How to Overcome Appetite Loss during Early Pregnancy
Most of these symptoms are normal and temporary. To overcome your loss of appetite and maintain good nutritional status you may try these:
- Do not force yourself to eat; especially not in the morning.
- Eat smaller meals.
- Eat small amounts of food, but eat frequently throughout the day.
- Avoid fatty foods and foods that are difficult to digest.
- Eat fiber-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables to prevent constipation and maintain good health.
- Try eating a BRAT diet, which includes Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast.
- Avoid foods with strong odor or taste such as spicy foods, fish or eggs, because these can trigger nausea.
- Avoid stress and fatigue.
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
- Some women avoid morning sickness by eating soda crackers right before getting out of bed.
- Sniffing a lemon or sucking on some sour candy can help relieve nausea.
- Some women recommend drinking ginger tea or ginger ale to reduce their symptoms.
If symptoms persist or if you are concerned that your symptoms are abnormal, it is best to consult a physician to determine if you need further treatment.