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What Happens If You Don’t Eat Enough While Pregnant

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what happens if you don't eat enough while pregnant

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Pregnancy is a time of great joy and excitement, but many women also suffer from unpleasant side effects such as nausea and general malaise. These are caused by changes in the body during pregnancy causing women to worry that their babies are not eating enough to get all the nutrients they need.

However, if you eat an overall healthy diet and achieve the expected pregnancy weight gain, you are likely eating well during pregnancy. But what happens if you don’t eat enough while pregnant?

Read on to learn more about our recommendations for gaining weight and whether you’re eating enough during pregnancy. Women need to make many changes before and during pregnancy. For example, quitting alcohol and smoking, and cutting down on caffeine.

Let’s check out some of the key food groups that are a must-have during pregnancy, learn more about what happens if you don’t eat enough while pregnant, and the symptoms of not eating enough while pregnant.

Key Food Groups During Pregnancy

A healthy diet for pregnant women is very similar to a healthy diet recommended for the general population. Here are a few must-eat and must not eat food groups:

Must Eat

Pregnant mothers should take care to include the following food groups in their diet:

  • Whole grains, like quinoa, oatmeal, brown rice, and whole wheat bread
  • Fruits, including oranges, apples, berries, and bananas
  • Vegetables, such as leafy greens, green beans, carrots, celery, squash, and cauliflower
  • Dairy or dairy substitutes, which include low-fat yogurt, cheeses, and cow’s milk or versions of these products made from a nut, oat, or soy kinds of milk
  • Quality sources of protein, such as beans, meats, tofu, eggs, and fish
  • Healthy fats, such as olive oil, avocado, seeds, and nuts
  • 8-12 cups of water per day

Must Not Eat

Beverages and foods to avoid during pregnancy include:

  • Beverages with high amounts of caffeine, such as energy drinks or large amounts of coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Fish/seafood with high mercury levels. This includes tilefish, shark, king mackerel, and swordfish.
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Undercooked meats and eggs
  • Deli meats
  • Unpasteurized milk
  • Soft unpasteurized cheeses (examples: queso fresco, gorgonzola, feta, brie)
  • Raw sprouts
  • Raw fish and shellfish
  • Unpasteurized juices

What Do You Need The Most During Pregnancy?

Nutrients and calories are two things you need to keep track of in your pregnancy diet plans. Here’s more about them:


A pregnant woman’s overall healthy diet is similar to that of the general population, but her calorie needs increase during pregnancy. Although not required, energy requirements increase during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

  • Early Pregnancy: No Extra Calories Needed
  • Mid Pregnancy: 340 Extra Calories Needed
  • Late Pregnancy: 450 Extra Calories Needed

No need to closely track calorie intake but if you have any questions or concerns about the correct amount, consult your doctor or registered dietitian. If you are unable to eat enough because of discomfort or nausea, try eating small meals and frequent snacks instead of three large meals a day.

Some women may find it easier to drink smoothies or nutritional shakes to get extra calories and nutrients Here’s more about the nutrient needs of a pregnant woman:


Although it is important to consume adequate amounts of protein, macronutrient needs (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) do not change significantly during pregnancy. 0.88 grams. For a 150 lb (~68 kg) woman, that’s about 60 grams of protein per day.

Taking a prenatal vitamin during pregnancy is recommended to prevent micronutrient deficiencies and to ensure that your baby receives all the micronutrients it needs to thrive. It’s more so important for pregnant women with a strict vegetarian, anemia, a vegan, poor diet in general, or substance abuse problems. Important nutrients include calcium and iodine.

Healthy Weight Gain During Pregnancy

Pregnancy can be tough on your body weight. But hey, what’s better than seeing a healthy munchkin in your arms? A pregnant woman typically has to gain 11.5-16 kg during pregnancy. But, because weight gain needs are different for each pregnancy and each individual, you should discuss this with your healthcare team. Interestingly, regular pregnancy weight checks are not as common in other developed countries as they are in the United States.

Why Do You Not Feel Hungry During Pregnancy?

Once you discover the happy news, there’s probably a ton that will go on in your mind and body alike. Let’s discuss some of the reasons for not feeling hungry during each stage of pregnancy.

First Trimester

Loss of appetite is often accompanied by morning sickness, which affects most pregnant women. Nausea and vomiting are two important signs of morning sickness. Vomiting and nausea (no matter their intensity) could affect food intake and appetite during pregnancy.

While it is normal for a pregnant woman to want to eat every few hours, if you have nausea you may have to deal with food aversions during your initial weeks of pregnancy. Research has shown that the rise and fall of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) during pregnancy could bring about a loss of appetite.

The first trimester of pregnancy is a time folks experience mental health issues like anxiety, mood swings, and depression. Pregnancy-related anxiety and depression can also lead to decreased appetite and reduced intake of nutritious foods. It is not uncommon to skip meals during this stage of pregnancy. Constant mood swings combined with morning sickness can also make you reluctant to eat. Also, foods that you liked before pregnancy may not work for you. It takes a few weeks for a pregnant woman to get used to the taste.

Second Trimester

The second trimester (midterm) is considered the best time of pregnancy as the morning sickness usually goes away and energy levels are restored. Nonetheless, many mothers suffer from anorexia during this time. This happens because the uterus grows and begins to put pressure on the stomach.

  • During this phase, levels of the hormone progesterone increase. This can contribute to constipation and that leads to a loss of appetite too.
  • Certain medications are safe during pregnancy but may contribute to loss of appetite. It can also be caused by not being able to eat.

To effectively control anorexia in the third trimester, it is best to choose nutritious snacks every few hours. Inadequate food intake may prevent the baby from gaining enough weight. Mothers who have a strong fear of gaining weight tend to consciously restrict their diet during this stage of pregnancy. Doing so not only puts the baby at risk but also causes problems with postpartum recovery.

Third Trimester

The third trimester of pregnancy is a time of rapid fetal growth, and if you don’t eat enough, your baby may not gain enough weight. However, most women do not feel hungry even in the third trimester of pregnancy.

  • At this point, the uterus is beginning to reach its maximum capacity. It puts a lot of pressure on your stomach and small intestine and lowers a pregnant woman’s appetite.
  • Progesterone levels peak in the third trimester of pregnancy, and progesterone-induced constipation contributes to anorexia.

Mothers who have a strong fear of gaining weight tend to consciously restrict their diet during this stage of pregnancy. Doing this not only puts the baby at risk but also poses problems for postpartum recovery.

So, What Happens If You Don’t Eat Enough While Pregnant?

Symptoms of not eating enough while pregnant include the following. Make sure you watch out for these signs before you get some serious health issues:

  1. Low Weight Gain (less than 10 kg)
  2. Persistent Hunger (not being full ever)
  3. Being Constipated
  4. Extreme Fatigue
  5. Feeling Cold Constantly
  6. Brittle Nails and Hair Loss
  7. Disrupted Sleep
  8. Mood Swings
  9. Anemia
  10. Low Immunity
  11. Unhealthy Skin

The Bottom Line on What Happens If You Don’t Eat Enough While Pregnant

You may not feel hungry when the fetus’ growth is pressing against your tummy and intestines. But you must make sure you eat every two hours whether you are hungry or not. Snacking is the best way to keep you full and ensure your little human gets all the nutrients they need. Here’s a small list of what you could add to your pregnancy weekly plan:

  • Protein-rich snacks: Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, roasted chickpeas, crackers and cheese, and turkey, sliced chicken, or cold ham
  • Fiber-packed veggies: Green beans, sweet potatoes, raw spinach salad, and baby carrots (raw or steamed)
  • Sweet bites: Oatmeal, fresh berries, dried fruit, and cold dairy products (plain cottage cheese, anyone?)
  • Grains/starches: Quinoa, baked or mashed potato, brown rice, macaroni, and cheese, and pasta
  • Soup: Chicken rice soup and chicken noodle soup
  • Liquids: Healthy smoothies and simple broths

Eat, eat, and eat whenever you hear the hunger calling! That should be your motto during those 9 months of carrying a child. Symptoms of not eating enough while pregnant can cause the following issues:

  • Malnutrition can cause a ton of complications in pregnancy, including low birth weight, poor fetal growth, and maternal weight loss.
  • It has also been associated with poor mental functioning and behavioral problems in children.

Here’s what you can do when you have a loss of appetite during pregnancy!

FAQs: What Happens If You Don’t Eat Enough While Pregnant?

1. How do you know if you're eating enough while pregnant?

Gaining enough weight during pregnancy is a sign that you are eating the right amount to support your little human’s needs. Most women gain 25 to 35 pounds but this number depends on your pre-pregnancy weight. The ideal way is to gain 1 pound every week from the second trimester of pregnancy.

2. How long can I go without eating while pregnant?

You can go 2 to 3 hours without eating during pregnancy. This way your blood gets a steady stream of nutrients and keeps your blood sugars normal.

3. What happens to the fetus when the mother is hungry?

The fetus starts moving more than usual when the mother is hungry because of the low levels of blood sugar.

4. How many times should a pregnant woman eat?

A pregnant woman should eat at least 3 small balanced meals a day along with 3 of their favorite snacks. That’s the general rule of thumb to stay healthy and keep giving your baby the nutrition it needs.

5. What stage of pregnancy are you most hungry?

The second trimester makes you go crazy hungry and you will appreciate the relief from vomiting and nausea from the first trimester. But don’t fret over hunger concerns during the 1st trimester because your tiny baby has tiny nutritional needs.

Reviewed By:

Jessica - Nutritionist Dietician

Jessica - Nutritionist Dietician

Jessica is the owner and registered dietitian nutritionist at Nutrition That Heals, LLC. She started her dietetics career working in acute care where she gained a great deal of invaluable experience, learning all about different disease states and their appropriate nutrition interventions. She then worked in long term care where she was able to develop her skills and knowledge base dealing with the elderly population. Following long term care, she worked as an outpatient dialysis dietitian, working with patients to help them eat their best for their kidney failure and often other health conditions (diabetes, heart disease, etc.). She then made the jump back to be an inpatient clinical dietitian. There, she was able to work with patients with strokes, cancer, orthopedic issues, as well as the pediatric population. During her most recent time working as an inpatient clinical dietitian, a great opportunity presented itself and it was a great way to move into focusing more on her dream of opening a private practice. She currently works full time as a contract dietitian with Dietitians on Demand conducting 1:1 nutrition counseling sessions while also working with patients here at Nutrition That Heals, LLC. ​She has been grateful enough to know how powerful good nutrition can be, but after being diagnosed with endometriosis in March 2022, she had to fully focus on the importance of anti-inflammatory foods, proper hydration, and self-care. This diagnosis motivated her to put pen to paper and get her business started - she wanted to teach what she had learned to others - food should be nourishing. Jessica wants to show you how you can heal with good nutrition, and feel your absolute best!

Sources :

On behalf of the editorial team at Parenthoodbliss, we follow strict reporting guidelines and only use credible sources, along with peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and highly respected health organizations. To learn about how we maintain content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial policy.

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