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Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

How Eating Habits Change

There's no accounting for what tastes good to a pregnant woman. Equally baffling are the reasons why food tastes do change during pregnancy. But studies have shown that between 76% and 90% of expectant mothers experience a craving for at least one food during pregnancy, and between 50 percent and 85% have at least one food aversion. Nausea during early pregnancy is reported by about half of the pregnant women studied.

To some extent, these sudden gastronomic changes can be blamed on hormonal hyperactivity during the first trimester. While cravings and aversions may disappear by the fourth month, they can resurface. The Institute of Medicine noted that in a 1989 study of 463 pregnant women, 90% reported a craving for at least one food item during the last trimester and more than 50% reported an aversion to at least one food.

Food cravings were once considered to be the body's response to deficiencies in vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients. The fact is, these signals are unreliable. You can't totally ignore food cravings or aversions, but you can try to control them by avoiding high-calorie foods that are low in nutritional value.

During pregnancy, you may also notice an increase in saliva, which causes your mouth to water more than usual. Your saliva, which reflects the hormonal changes occurring in your body, may also produce a slight metallic taste in your mouth.

Some of the common discomforts of pregnancy may cause you to adjust your eating habits. If nausea is a problem (usually in the first trimester), eating smaller, more frequent meals may help, along with crackers as snacks and liquids between — rather than with — meals. Despite this transient discomfort, studies indicate that the pregnancy outcome is favorable. Heartburn also can be eased by frequent small meals and avoiding greasy or heavily spiced foods and caffeine. Helpful hints for constipation, which may occur any time during pregnancy, include increased fluid intake, high-fiber foods and such natural laxatives as dried fruit (especially prunes and figs) and other fruits and juices.

Last updated July 1, 2009




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