Are you struggling with consuming enough food to make you feel full? Are you wondering why this pregnancy has you wanting to eat every second of the day? We’ve been there, and we know the feeling well!
It’s normal to experience constant hunger during pregnancy, especially during the second trimester when you get your appetite and energy back. But it can be frustrating at a time when you’re trying to pay especially close attention to your health.
It can be easy to overeat when you’re pregnant, as you can always blame it on the fact that you’re “eating for two.” But we all know how unhealthy this can be — not just for you but for your baby too.
In this article, we’ll explain why you may be hungry and give you some tips to help tame that appetite so you can keep yourself and your baby healthy throughout your pregnancy.
- Increased Appetite During Early Pregnancy
- Is Constant Hunger a Sign of Pregnancy?
- What is a Hunger Pang?
- What Causes Hunger Pangs When Pregnant?
- How to Combat Hunger Pangs
- When Does Your Appetite Increase?
- Will Your Appetite Decrease?
- Why Do You Feel Hungry 24/7?
- How To Manage Constant Hunger
- Managing Your Weight When Pregnant
- Eat Less and Still Feel Full
- The Bottom Line
Increased Appetite During Early Pregnancy
In early pregnancy, the struggle can get real. You may be suffering from morning sickness and tons of other bodily changes, yet you still find yourself hungry all the time.
Many women experience this increased appetite during the first trimester because vomiting from morning sickness leaves their stomachs empty. Your appetite may have increased because the food you are eating is not being absorbed into your body.
Your body is trying to grow a tiny human and keep you nourished, but you may be consuming fewer calories now than before you were pregnant.
The increased hunger you’re feeling means you need to try to increase your food intake when you’re not feeling nauseated. Learn to navigate the bumpy waters of cravings and aversions to ensure you eat healthy foods and keep them down. You and your baby need all those calories.
Is Constant Hunger a Sign of Pregnancy?
Very early in your pregnancy, you may begin to experience particular food cravings and hunger pangs.
Hunger pangs alone aren’t enough to immediately lead you to believe you are pregnant, but if they are paired with a missed period, tender breasts, morning sickness, and fatigue — you might be on to something.
What is a Hunger Pang?
We experience hunger pangs in the upper abdomen. The inner lining of your stomach becomes irritable, which leads you to intense feelings of hunger (1).
When you’re pregnant, your stomach becomes empty after digestion. An empty stomach leaves the inner linings exposed and can cause them to rub together. The irritation of the walls of the stomach rubbing together can cause hunger pangs to occur.
What Causes Hunger Pangs When Pregnant?
There are numerous causes of hunger pangs. It can be difficult to pinpoint just one, but these are several possibilities:
- Your baby’s growth: The second and third trimesters of your pregnancy are a time of significant growth for your baby. Your baby will need you to consume many calories to help with that growth, and if you aren’t eating enough, you may experience hunger pangs.
- Consuming too many liquids: You should always stay hydrated when pregnant and be sure to drink tons of water. However, there is a threshold you don’t want to reach. Consuming too many liquids can cause your stomach lining to stretch and result in intense hunger pangs. Shoot for 10 cups of fluids every day. It may be a good idea to limit liquids with meals. Your stomach fills faster when you’re pregnant because your growing baby pushes it upward.
- Spicy food: Spicy foods can cause heartburn and indigestion, but they can also irritate your stomach lining.
- Poor chewing: If you aren’t chewing your food enough, it could lead to indigestion and cause stomach pains. If you spend a little extra time chewing your food, it can also help you feel full longer.
How to Combat Hunger Pangs
You may not have total control over hunger pangs, but these are some steps that helped them subside for us, and many other moms have found them helpful too.
- Eat regularly: It’s important to prevent your stomach from emptying fully. Consume small amounts of food frequently throughout the day to keep your hunger at bay.
- Carry snacks: You always want to make sure you have some healthy options at your disposal. It’s wise to keep snacks like granola bars, trail mix, and dried dates in your purse.
- Stay hydrated: Hydration is an essential part of pregnancy, and you should try to consume significant amounts of water throughout the day. Remember not to totally overdo it, or you can stretch your stomach lining.
When Does Your Appetite Increase?
Many women may notice their hunger increase during the first trimester, but the second trimester is when it seems to peak.
Once your morning sickness subsides, you will be thrilled to be able to keep down any food, so you may feel the urge to splurge.
Will Your Appetite Decrease?
Some women notice their hunger seems to subside once they reach the third trimester.
However, it’s different for each of us. You may feel like you are never hungry, or you may be hungry every couple of hours.
Your baby is growing bigger, which leaves less room for your stomach. Your stomach can’t hold as much food as usual, which can cause your appetite to decrease.
Even if you don’t feel hungry, you need to eat enough to help sustain yourself and your baby. You should be eating at least 500 extra calories a day (2).
Focus on high protein and fiber-rich foods. Both will keep you fuller longer and are very important for your baby’s development. For example, a snack could be cheese and whole wheat crackers. For a meal, try cottage cheese on a salad.
Editor's Note:Katelyn Holt RN, BSN, BC
Why Do You Feel Hungry 24/7?
Your body has to work in overdrive when you’re pregnant to help sustain you and your growing baby. This means it is constantly working night and day.
You need those extra calories because you are busy growing a human! Think about the extra energy it takes to grow a heart, brain, and lungs. It’s amazing! All of this energy is coming from you and the food you consume.
Your body is likely burning calories faster than you can even consume them. This quick transition causes you to feel like you need to eat all the time (3).
Listen to your body, and don’t feel guilty if you feel like you are always digging for food. Relax! It’s all for your baby, and your baby needs those nutrients.
How To Manage Constant Hunger
Pregnancy hunger can become overwhelming, and it is important we find a way to keep it subdued. You shouldn’t completely ignore your hunger. Instead, look for healthy ways to manage it.
We mention hydration more than once because it’s crucial. Our bodies can trick us into confusing hunger with pregnancy dehydration.
You may think you immediately need food, but a cup of water could do the trick. Try to drink about 10 cups of water a day.
2. Watch Calories
Some women think once they become pregnant, they can eat anything and everything they want. Your food consumption is very important, but it does have its limits.
In the first trimester, you can keep your calorie intake the same. You should consume about 300 more calories per day during the second trimester and about 500 more during the third. If you are pregnant with multiples, you should double the extra intake.
3. Maintain a Healthy Diet
It is easy to eat anything when you’re pregnant because you can shrug the extra weight gain off as being baby weight, but you shouldn’t overindulge.
Keep your diet healthy and nutritious. Opt for foods that can benefit you and your baby rather than add to the extra pounds. Fresh foods are always a better option than processed ones.
4. Build Up Your Arsenal
Make sure your fridge or purse is always stocked with healthy options that can help ease your hunger. Sliced fruit, cheese sticks, and nuts are all quick, simple snacks.
It’s always great to have more healthy options at your disposal than junk food.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Indulge
Every once in a while, you need to reward yourself and indulge in your favorite food. Eating a few small spoonfuls of ice cream each day worked better for me than having a b0wl of it once per week, but some women find the opposite works best for them.
We all have cheat days, and these don’t have to stop when you are pregnant — as long as your other meals focus on nutritious items.
Eating small meals throughout the day can help keep your intense hunger at bay. You can take small items to work with you to have healthy snacks on hand.
When I was pregnant, I never left the house without my water bottle in my hand and a granola bar and a banana in my purse.
Editor's Note:Katelyn Holt RN, BSN, BC
Managing Your Weight When Pregnant
We expect to gain some weight when pregnant. But with the constant hunger, it can be challenging to keep the weight gain under control. These tips helped us maintain a healthy weight despite pregnancy hunger (4).
- Begin pregnancy at a healthy weight.
- Eat often but in moderation.
- Stay hydrated, especially with water consumption.
- Accept cravings, but make them constructive.
- Exercise during pregnancy. Walking is an easy way to stay active and energized.
Talk to your doctor about how much weight you should gain. Your starting weight determines how much weight your doctor will recommend that you gain.
Eat Less and Still Feel Full
You don’t have to consume three-course meals multiple times a day to keep yourself full. It may seem like an impossible task, but it is possible to eat simple meals and make yourself feel full. Three small meals and two to three snacks should get you through the day.
- Eat slower: Your brain needs at least 20 minutes to process that your body is full. Simply taking some extra time to chew your food can help you achieve that fullness faster.
- Eat half your portions: Split your meals up into several a day. You don’t have to stick to the traditional three meals a day — eat when you are hungry. Don’t indulge in large meals. Instead, try eating eat six small meals a day.
- Busy your mind: If you are sitting around, you will inevitably be distracted by hunger. If you pick up a hobby, you can help distract your mind from the hunger and redirect your attention elsewhere.
The Bottom Line
Hunger is an inevitable part of pregnancy. We would be crazy to expect a woman to consume the same amount of food as she used to even though she is now actively growing a human.
Your body and your baby need the extra calories to be well-nourished and healthy during pregnancy. You shouldn’t feel guilty about consuming more food. You are now burning way more calories. You need that extra food to keep you moving and your baby growing.