Pregnant women often experience changes in taste preferences during pregnancy. Some changes may take the form of pregnancy cravings, while others may come in the form of food aversions. Whether you are experiencing cravings or aversions, listening to your body is important throughout pregnancy and beyond.
Pregnancy Food Aversion Causes
Pregnancy brings on many hormonal changes for women, which likely influence the changes in taste preferences many women experience. During the first trimester, the hormones human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and estrogen rise. The rapid increase in hCG may cause nausea, often referred to as morning sickness, as well as food cravings and food aversions. HCG levels peak and level off toward the end of the first trimester, typically at week eleven. However, hormonal changes continue to affect both taste preferences and appetite throughout pregnancy.
Research suggests that pregnancy-related nausea and food aversions may be correlated. Vomiting may also be related to both nausea and food aversions during pregnancy. Additional research suggests that food aversions may be a protective reaction where the body is attempting to protect you and your baby from potentially harmful food elements. If you were to consume something that caused food poisoning during pregnancy, your reaction may be more severe than if you were not pregnant (link to food poisoning during pregnancy blog).
Food Aversion Timing
About 50 percent of pregnant women will develop at least one food aversion at some point during pregnancy. Food aversions are most likely to occur during the first trimester of pregnancy, and often start around the same time as morning sickness. It is common to see these symptoms set around week five or six. In general, these symptoms usually stop around week eleven. However, many women develop new aversions or experience changes in their aversions later in pregnancy. It is also common to be averse to one food early in pregnancy and crave it by the end of the same pregnancy.
If you experience severe aversions that last throughout your second and third trimesters, you should speak with your doctor. Your doctor will evaluate whether you are getting the nutrients you and your baby need for optimal growth and development. Most food aversions that last throughout pregnancy will resolve after the baby is born. However, it is possible for aversions to linger after delivery.
Common Food Aversions During Pregnancy
Every woman and every pregnancy is different, and any food may trigger an aversion at any time. Oftentimes, foods with strong smells cause aversions during pregnancy, as your changing hormones impact both taste and small. Increased saliva production during pregnancy may also cause a metallic taste in your mouth that will not go away. This taste may cause or exacerbate food aversions. Finally, many women are more sensitive to food textures when pregnant, so foods that are slimy, thick, or chewy may not be appetizing.
Common pregnancy food aversions include:
- Spicy foods
- Greasy foods
Considering all the hormonal changes during pregnancy, it is common to be averse to foods you once loved or crave foods you previously disliked. Aversions and cravings may change at any time during or after pregnancy.
How To Manage Food Aversions
For the most part, avoiding foods you are averse to and eating foods you are craving is perfectly healthy. However, if you find that you are averse to foods that include essential nutrients for pregnancy, be mindful of other ways to get those nutrients. For example, if you are averse to meat, eat other iron-rich foods such as tofu, beans, nuts, seeds, among others.
Some women also find success by hiding foods they are averse to in more desirable foods. For example, make a smoothie with spinach or frozen cauliflower to boost your vegetable intake if you are struggling to consume enough veggies each day.
Many women find that cold foods and bland foods are much easier to tolerate during pregnancy, and do not cause nausea. Choosing these foods may improve your tolerance.
Another strategy is to have someone else cook whenever possible (seriously!). For many women, the scent of food cooking is too much for them to tolerate. Ordering healthy takeout meals may also be a good option when being close to food preparation is hard for your stomach to handle.
Food aversions are perfectly normal during pregnancy. However, remember that every pregnancy is different. Listen to your body throughout your pregnancy, especially when it comes to foods that your body may be sensitive to.
Overall, focus on eating a well-balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, leans proteins, and healthy fats during pregnancy. If you find that you are averse to these foods, fulfill your nutrient requirements with healthy substitutes and sufficient prenatal vitamins and supplements.
If you are struggling to find healthy substitutes, or an eating pattern that makes you feel good during your pregnancy, our team is here to help.