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Home > Learn > Pregnancy > >How to Handle Food Aversions During Pregnancy

How to Handle Food Aversions During Pregnancy

May 09, 24 6 min

By Dr. Kenosha Gleaton, OBGYN

Originally published 5/30/2023. Updated for accuracy and relevancy on 5/9/2024

Pregnancy can cause food cravings and food aversions. It can be difficult to manage food aversions, especially when you’re experiencing morning sickness. Let’s talk about what causes food aversions, how they’re related to nausea and vomiting, and how to manage them. 

What Are Food Aversions?

Food aversions are a common symptom of pregnancy and are described as feelings of disgust, nausea, or distaste towards foods, textures, and flavors. Food aversions typically start during the early stages of pregnancy and can even cause you to dislike some of your favorite foods. Food and smell aversions can trigger or worsen morning sickness symptoms.  [1] 

Common Food Aversions During Pregnancy

Food aversions can vary from person to person, but generally appear in response to fragrant foods and specific foods with distinct textures. Some common food aversions experienced during pregnancy include eggs, onions, seafood, garlic, dairy products, spicy foods, and meat. [1] It’s normal to experience a random aversion to a food you normally enjoy, similarly to pregnancy cravings, which may lead you to consume foods that you normally don’t eat or enjoy. You may even have an aversion to a food one week and then crave it a few weeks later! 

What Causes Food Aversions?

So why do people feel such strong aversions or cravings during pregnancy? There are two likely causes—pregnancy hormones and morning sickness, and they go hand in hand. [1,2] During pregnancy, we see a rise in a few different hormones, including human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), estrogen, and progesterone. [3] Many hormonal changes occur, such as levels rising quickly in the first few weeks of pregnancy, around the same time many begin to experience nausea and vomiting, food aversions, and food cravings. [1] In fact, a small research study found that 60% of pregnant people reported experiencing both nausea and food aversions, with both appearing in the same pregnancy week. [2] It’s believed that morning sickness may worsen or be worsened by the smell, sight, or taste of different foods and textures. [1] For example, if you feel nauseous after eating or smelling chicken, you may be averse to it for months during pregnancy. Read more about The Causes of Pregnancy Aversions and Cravings

Food Aversions and Morning Sickness

Food aversions and morning sickness have been studied more in recent years and research is beginning to connect the two in different ways. A study found a positive correlation between the week of onset of nausea as well as food aversions. [1] Other research also suggests that food aversions may have evolved due to morning sickness, a way to protect the body by discouraging the consumption of potentially dangerous substances. [1-2] 

Managing Food Aversions

It can be difficult to manage food aversions during pregnancy, especially if you’re battling morning sickness. The best advice I have is to listen to your body during pregnancy. Don’t try to force yourself to eat something that you don’t want to eat, and allow yourself to modify your diet as necessary. You may also find it helpful to “disguise” certain foods by blending them, cutting them up finely, or masking tastes with different sauces, spices, and flavors. [4] Slowly increasing exposure to adverse foods may help you get over your aversion more quickly. 

 

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Maintaining Proper Nutrition During Pregnancy

It is important to get plenty of vital nutrients, such as folate, iron, calcium, vitamin D, etc to avoid nutritional deficiency. [5] If you’re having a difficult time eating a lot of nutritious foods, your prenatal vitamins can help you reach the recommended daily amount of nutrients. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) doesn’t list any recommendations for added calories during the first trimester, but does suggest that you begin to eat an additional 340 calories per day starting in the second trimester. [5] You should speak to your healthcare provider if you’re concerned about how much or what you’re able to eat. 

Managing Nausea and Vomiting

Since the two are likely connected, it’s also important to know how to manage morning sickness. There isn’t one specific way to treat or cure morning sickness, but making some dietary and lifestyle changes may prove to be helpful. [6] Eating multiple small meals during the day, eating bland foods, changing meal times, adding in plenty of protein, and drinking lots of fluids may be helpful for curbing morning sickness. [6] Additionally, there are certain foods that fight nausea during pregnancy that may aid the process.

You may also benefit from using products such as morning sickness gummies, nausea relief tea or nausea relief supplements that contain ingredients like peppermint, ginger, and vitamin B6. Our morning sickness gummies provide a convenient and effective way to help manage food aversions during your pregnancy and make each meal a pleasant experience.

There are also medications and supplements to help morning sickness symptoms that may be useful. [6] 

When Will Food Aversions Go Away?

There isn’t an exact start or end date to food aversions, pregnancy food cravings, or morning sickness. Most data suggests that food aversions appear quickly during the first trimester, worsen during the second trimester, and gradually go away. [1] You may notice that your food aversions have resolved by the end of your pregnancy, or some will continue to experience some food aversions after delivery. [7] 

When To Seek Help

It’s normal to experience fluctuations in appetite, food aversions or pregnancy cravings, and some nausea and vomiting, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy. If you’re ever concerned about your health or the health of your baby, you should speak to your healthcare provider. You should also seek out help if you’re unable to eat or keep down any foods or beverages, are experiencing signs of dehydration, feel dizzy or lightheaded, or would like to discuss treatment options. [6] Severe morning sickness or food aversions can have negative health effects, so it’s important to find a way to manage these until you’re feeling better. [6] 

Get Support During Pregnancy From Natalist

No matter where you are on your family planning journey, Natalist is here to support you with evidence-based and sustainable products. Support your nutrition with prenatal vitamins, curb your morning sickness with nausea relief products, and stay hydrated with a tasty electrolyte drink mix. When you have more questions, head on over to the Natalist blog. 



References:

  1. Yalew A, Tekle Silasie W, Anato A, Fikrie A. Food aversion during pregnancy and its association with nutritional status of pregnant women in Boricha Woreda, Sidama Regional State, Southern Ethiopia, 2019. A community based mixed crossectional study design. Reprod Health. 2021;18(1):208. Published 2021 Oct 18. doi:10.1186/s12978-021-01258-w
  2. Bayley TM, Dye L, Jones S, DeBono M, Hill AJ. Food cravings and aversions during pregnancy: relationships with nausea and vomiting. Appetite. 2002;38(1):45-51. doi:10.1006/appe.2002.0470
  3. Kumar P, Magon N. Hormones in pregnancy. Niger Med J. 2012;53(4):179-183. doi:10.4103/0300-1652.107549
  4. Food Aversion. Cleveland Clinic. May 8 2022. Medical citation URL. Accessed May 18 2023. 
  5. Nutrition During Pregnancy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. FAQ001. May 2023. Medical citation URL
  6. Morning Sickness: Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy. FAQ126. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. December 2021. Medical citation URL. Accessed May 2023. 
  7. Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG). HER Foundation. Accessed May 17 2023. Medical citation URL.

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