Tips for managing a loss of appetite during pregnancy

Changes to your appetite during pregnancy is common, here's how to manage it.
Written by
Julia Hammond
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Last updated on
June 3, 2024
min read
Tips For Managing a Loss of Appetite During Pregnancy | Kin Fertility
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Food, glorious food! On any normal day, it's your favourite thing. But since becoming pregnant, your appetite has changed or even disappeared. What gives?

Well, pregnancy hormones are mostly to blame since they cause nausea and food aversion. Other symptoms might include morning sickness, heartburn or even the smell of food putting you off.

To help you navigate the first trimester, we're sharing tips to manage appetite loss during pregnancy.

Is the loss of appetite a sign of pregnancy?

Feeling nauseous is known to be a sign of early pregnancy and research suggests it’s a sign of a viable, healthy pregnancy.

In one study, a group of regular coffee drinkers were monitored for the first 8-9 weeks of pregnancy. An amazing 96% of participants decreased their coffee intake, with some cutting it out completely due to aversion [1].

Coffee is one of the most common foods that women find unappealing in early pregnancy; along with meat, spicy foods and dairy products [1].

What causes loss of appetite in pregnancy?

Let’s start with some good news — appetite loss during early pregnancy is normal. Many women experience changes in food preferences, including food cravings or food aversion (intense dislike) [2].

The main cause of appetite loss during pregnancy is hormonal changes. You can thank your friend, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is a pregnancy hormone that can cause nausea, appetite changes and food aversions [2].

There are also a few common early pregnancy issues that make food far less appetising:

Morning sickness

It may be called morning sickness, but this unpleasant side effect of early pregnancy can happen at any time of day. In good news, mild morning sickness and vomiting are not harmful to your baby [3].

Morning sickness is common in the first trimester; beginning around week 6 and settling by week 14 in the second trimester [4][2]. It is usually caused by pregnancy hormonal changes, but it can also be linked to low levels of vitamin B6 or an imbalance of potassium or magnesium [3].

Coping with morning sickness

There are plenty of morning sickness remedies available and ways you can minimise the feeling. Here are some examples [4][5]:

  • Sip on water, which can help prevent nausea and vomiting
  • Have food and drinks containing ginger, like ginger ale or ginger tea
  • Try sweet drinks like flat lemonade, sports drinks, diluted fruit juices, and cordials
  • Make a note of the times that you feel worst to avoid triggering nausea
  • Try salty foods like potato chips or a few crackers
  • Avoid spicy foods, fried foods and anything fatty or rich
  • Eat frequent meals or small but frequent snacks to avoid an empty stomach

Tiredness is known to make nausea worse, so be sure to get plenty of rest as well [3][5]. Try making time for an afternoon nap or practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing.

Drinking a hot cup of tea is another great way to take rest and relieve daily morning sickness symptoms. Kin's Morning Sickness Tea is an all-natural remedy that is perfect to sip on whenever you feel the ick. With warming ginger and soothing peppermint, you can enjoy this herbal blend hot or iced, at any time of the day or night.

If frequent nausea and vomiting are stopping you from getting enough nutrients or if you’re losing weight, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor about other treatment options [2][3].

Our body needs to stay hydrated and healthy at the best of times and this also aids in reducing bloating. Kin's Electrolyte Powder is packed with ingredients that work together to keep you hydrated, healthy and energised.

Electrolytes and vitamin C are essential for keeping your water levels up and for providing essential nutrients to support your body’s mineral and fluid balance.

Hyperemesis gravidarum

For a small number of women, morning sickness is much more severe. They struggle to keep food or drinks down and experience excessive and prolonged vomiting [3][4][6].

This condition is known as hyperemesis gravidarum. It usually appears between weeks 4 and 10 of pregnancy and settles by the second trimester. Because it carries high risks of dehydration, you need to be monitored by a doctor. You might be admitted to the hospital as well, just to ensure you stay hydrated and are well looked after [6].

Managing this condition is rarely easy. If you think you may be experiencing hyperemesis gravidarum, speak with your doctor or midwife who can advise on the next steps.

Sensitivity to taste and smell

Some women find that food tastes different during pregnancy or they ‘go off’ certain foods, including those they used to love. This often settles down later in pregnancy. So, if you struggled with certain foods in the first trimester, you might like to try them again later on [4].

Another common pregnancy symptom is a sensitivity to strong food smells. Eating cold foods can help as they have less of an odour. Other options are asking friends or family for help preparing food and opening a window while you're cooking [3].

Heartburn and indigestion

When your stomach is playing up, it’s no wonder you want less food. Heartburn and indigestion are common reasons for appetite loss in pregnancy. These are triggered by pregnancy hormones, like progesterone, and by your growing baby pressing on your stomach [4][7].

Common triggers for heartburn also include spicy foods, fatty foods, fruit juices, caffeine, and large meals [7]. Some ways you can prevent it include:

  • Avoiding lying down after a meal
  • Eating small meals, more often
  • Chewing gum or drinking milk, as both help neutralise stomach acids

How soon can your appetite change when pregnant?

Changes to your appetite, including appetite loss, are common in the first trimester (the first 12 weeks of pregnancy) [8].

Symptoms like food aversion or nausea and vomiting usually happen earlier, rather than later. For example, it’s unusual to experience morning sickness for the first time after week 10 of pregnancy. If this occurs, it’s best to check in with your doctor [3]. 

Symptoms of not eating enough during pregnancy

In the short term, a loss of appetite is no big deal but, over time, you become at risk of losing weight or developing a vitamin deficiency.

Low weight during pregnancy

Severe weight loss during pregnancy can put your baby at risk. A low weight during pregnancy can increase risks of [9]:

  • Miscarriage
  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight for your baby
  • Gastroschisis, which is a condition where your baby’s stomach doesn’t fully develop

Those all sound pretty scary and we don’t want to alarm you. Your doctor will monitor your weight throughout pregnancy and keep you on the right track. For example, they might give you a target weight to achieve to ensure your and your little one's ideal health [9].

It’s best to work on gaining weight slowly; through a balanced diet with lots of healthy foods. It’s also a good idea to limit exercise as a way to avoid losing more weight. Around 30 minutes of light exercise like swimming, walking, yoga or Pilates up to 4 times per week is plenty [9].

Anaemia during pregnancy

Your iron needs while pregnant are 3 times higher than that of an adult woman who is not pregnant [10]. Low iron in pregnancy is common and if it becomes severe, it can be harmful. It might affect your heart or put you at risk if you lose a lot of blood during birth [10].

Eating a healthy diet often protects against anaemia, but this can be tricky to do with a decreased appetite. Many women take an iron supplement to prevent anaemia, which is an effective treatment option [10].

Kin's Iron Support is a vegan formula that relieves tiredness, supports healthy iron levels and maintains energy production. Take it throughout pregnancy and postpartum for a stamina boost when you need it most.

Why is it important to meet your nutritional needs when pregnant?

A daily dose of vitamins and minerals helps every person function at their best. Plus, during pregnancy, you’re also supporting your baby's growth.

There are a few important nutrients that both you and your bub need, such as [11]:

  • Folate to build your baby’s cells and reduce risks of certain birth defects
  • Iodine to help your baby’s brain develop
  • Calcium to help form healthy bones
  • Vitamin D to support your baby’s bones and teeth
  • Omega-3 fatty acids to help with healthy brain, nerve and eye development

We know pregnancy can be a little overwhelming — but it doesn’t have to be. Kin's Pregnancy Checklist consists of bite-sized checklist items personalised to your pregnancy journey. Approved by fertility specialists and OBYGN approved, you'll feel prepared to tackle each day as it comes and enjoy the process, rather than get lost in it.

Meeting your nutritional needs during pregnancy

It can be hard to support your baby when you have a decreased appetite. Thankfully, forcing yourself to eat is not the only option. Here are 3 ideas to get all the nutrition you need with less fuss.

Take a prenatal vitamin

You can get most of the nutrients you need from food, but having enough each day can be hard. It’s even more difficult if you have appetite loss during pregnancy. That's why many women choose to take supplements: to more easily support their vitamin and mineral levels.

Use protein shakes

Meat is one of the most common food aversions for pregnant women, which means you might be lacking in protein. Rather than forcing yourself through a large meal, try a protein shake.

Kin's Essential Protein Powder is designed to be easy to take. With calcium, vitamin C, protein and probiotics, it can support you and your baby throughout your whole pregnancy. Plus, it has a delicious natural vanilla flavour.

Work with a dietitian

When your favourite foods are off the menu or you simply don’t feel hungry, you need a new meal plan. Working with a qualified dietitian can give you food ideas that are manageable, even with a low appetite. They can also help you fill up on foods full of the vitamins and minerals you need [3][6].

The most important thing is that you get all the nutrients you need to feel your best while supporting the little one as much as possible.

Image credit: Getty Images

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