Pregnancy Aversions: Why Your Favorite Foods Make Your Tummy Turn
On This Page
- What's a pregnancy food aversion?
- How long do food aversions last during pregnancy?
- What is the most common food aversion during pregnancy?
- What causes food aversions during pregnancy?
- Can food aversions predict a baby's sex?
- When should I worry about food aversions in pregnancy?
- How to Cope With Food Aversions During Pregnancy
Pregnancy loves to mess with your diet! Not only are you likely hungrier than ever before, you may also be experiencing out-of-left-field cravings (hello, pickles!), and sudden aversions to foods you normally love. In fact, nearly 70% of pregnant people experience aversion to at least one food during pregnancy. Couple these dietary ups-and-downs with your deep desire to offer your baby-to-be the most nutritious food possible and, well, mealtime gets overwhelming pretty quickly. But here’s the thing: Your pregnancy food aversions don’t have to get in the way of your eat-healthy plan. Here, learn the ins and outs of pregnancy food aversions—and what you can do about them.
What's a pregnancy food aversion?
Food aversions in pregnancy are the flip side of food cravings in pregnancy. So, instead of experiencing a desire to consume certain foods, you have a strong desire not to consume certain foods. With pregnancy food aversions, the taste, smell, or even the sight of particular foods can make you queasy.
How long do food aversions last during pregnancy?
Food aversions during pregnancy usually begin during the first trimester. Food aversions are even considered an early sign of pregnancy. While pregnancy food aversions often fade right along with morning sickness during the second trimester, that’s not always the case. At times, the distaste for a particular food may linger throughout pregnancy—and sometimes beyond.
What is the most common food aversion during pregnancy?
What causes food aversions during pregnancy?
If you’re at all familiar with body changes during pregnancy, you likely already suspect that pregnancy hormones (aka human gonadotropin or hCG) are to blame for your food aversions. And you’d be partially right! But the truth is, we don’t know the entire reason some experience food aversions and others don’t. However, there are some theories, like…
Change in taste: Nearly 93% of expecting parents experience some type of change in taste during pregnancy that causes a sour or metallic taste in their mouth. (This irksome pregnancy side effect often fades in the second trimester.)
Change in smell: Reports have found that roughly 65% of pregnant individuals experience changes in olfactory perception, which essentially means their sense of smell is heightened making certain aromatic eats stomach-turning.
Digestion issues: The pregnancy hormone progesterone relaxes smooth muscles, which slows digestion. That means foods that are more difficult to digest, like fried or high-fat foods can suddenly make your queasy.
Morning sickness: Morning sickness is partially caused by hormonal changes. Here, folks who experience morning sickness associate that icky feeling with a specific food they eat but are unable to keep down.
Protection-mode: It’s possible that some food aversions are a leftover caveperson-like instinct designed to keep pregnant individuals away from foods that could contain pathogens or toxins that prove dangerous to unborn babies. This is called the maternal-embryo protection hypothesis.
Can food aversions predict a baby’s sex?
Maybe! Research published in the journal Physiology and Behavior suggests that pregnant folks who are carrying boys are more food-averse during their first two trimesters than those expecting girls. (Researchers looked at “disgust sensitivity,” not morning sickness.) It’s hypothesized that the uptick in repulsion might be the body’s way of keeping parents-to-be away from potentially dangerous foods in order to protect male embryos, which are more vulnerable than female embryos. Of course, those expecting baby girls routinely deal with food aversions, too! (Learn more about gender prediction traditions.)
When should I worry about food aversions in pregnancy?
Many cases of pregnancy food aversions are mild, allowing you to eat most of the foods you want. At times, however, food aversions during pregnancy can take a turn into dangerous territory if your diet is severely limited or you have lost your appetite entirely. You should reach out to your healthcare provider if you’re worried about getting proper nutrition, you’re unable to gain or maintain your weight, you’re showing signs of dehydration (dark yellow or strong-smelling urine, dry mouth, dizziness), you’re having frequent headaches, and/or your morning sickness has becoming intolerable.
How to Cope With Food Aversions During Pregnancy
If you have a new aversion to, say, Chinese take-out or red meat, but you’re still able to get all the nutrients you need from other sources, don’t sweat it. But if your pregnancy food aversions significantly hinder your eating habits and/or your quality of life, there are strategies you can try to get relief!
Trick yourself. Hide undesirable foods within foods that are still on your “like to eat list.” For example, if spinach is turning your tummy, but you need the fiber and folate, try adding it to your smoothie. (PS: Frozen spinach gives your smoothie a silkier consistency.)
Make protein swaps. Struggling to get red meat or poultry down? Lean into beans, nuts, tofu, and eggs instead.
Change up textures. If a whole chicken breast is making you queasy, try slow cooking it so that it’s shreddable.
Tamp down the metallic taste. Adding sauces and marinating meat has been known to help cut down on the metallic flavor. Adding citrus to your recipe—or drinking some—may also help.
Air out the kitchen. Use a fan when cooking, open the windows, and have someone else empty the kitchen trash can!
Eat cold foods. Since warm foods tend to be more aromatic than cold ones, it’s a good idea to “chill out” with things like salad, yogurt, pasta salad, and more.
Stay hydrated. It’s important to drink 64 to 96 ounces of water daily when expecting. It aids digestion, helps form amniotic fluid, ensures nutrients circulate, and more. But if you have an aversion to water during pregnancy (it happens!) you can get the hydration you need with brothy soups, popsicles, and high-water fruits and veggies, like watermelon, zucchini, and cantaloupe.
More on pregnancy symptoms—and solutions:
- How to Ease Morning Sickness: A Registered Dietitian’s Advice
- Pregnancy Guide to Better Sleep
- Help for Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy
- A Quick Guide to Pregnancy Discharge
- All About Round Ligament Pain in Pregnancy
- Cleveland Clinic: Food Aversion
- March of Dimes: Morning Sickness
- 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. Reproductive Health. October 2021
- Pregnancy, Birth & Baby: Appetite changes and food aversions during pregnancy
- Changes in Gustatory Sense During Pregnancy. Acta Oto-Laryngologica. July 2009.
- UT Southwestern Medical Center: 5 weird pregnancy symptoms you might not know about
- Pickles and ice cream! Food cravings in pregnancy: hypotheses, preliminary evidence, and directions for future research. Frontiers in Psychology. September 2014
- University of Rochester Medical Center: Pregnancy: How Your Digestion Changes
- Food Aversions and Cravings during Pregnancy on Yasawa Island, Fiji. Human Nature. May 2016
- Disgust in pregnancy and fetus sex—Longitudinal study. Physiology & Behavior. February 2015
- The fragile male. December 2020
- Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan: Prenatal Nutrition: Healthy Eating Tip of the Month
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG): Morning Sickness: Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy
- ACOG: How much water should I drink during pregnancy?
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.