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What Causes Hunger Pangs in Early Pregnancy?

Feeling hunger pangs in early pregnancy is due to hormonal changes along with the increased need for calories and nutrients. Most women experience hunger pangs as a normal part of their early pregnancy.

Feeling hunger pangs in early pregnancy is caused by hormonal changes and the increased need for calories and nutrients. We’ve all heard about the unusual cravings and increased appetite a pregnant woman experiences. Once initial nausea subsides, it is common for a woman to experience increased hunger and have particular cravings.

Table of Contents

How Are Hunger Pangs Defined?

Hunger pangs, also called hunger pains, are a natural sensation when the stomach is empty and your body is ready for more food. The sensation is a gnawing feeling or an emptiness in the abdomen.

However, hunger pangs can occur when the body is not hungry and can occur during other situations such as sleep deprivation and certain medical conditions.

What Are Common Causes of Hunger Pangs During Early Pregnancy?

Some of the most common causes of hunger pangs during early pregnancy include:

Changes in Hormones

Hormonal changes during pregnancy kickstart a series of physiological events to create a healthy fetus and support the woman’s changing body.

Levels of Progesterone Increase

Increased levels of progesterone support the growing fetus during early pregnancy. This hormone is responsible for increasing blood flow to the womb. It also causes a series of digestive symptoms including constipation, reflux, vomiting, and gas.

Rise in Levels of Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG)

The placenta produces a hormone called Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG), which is known to increase appetite. Its role is to ensure the pregnancy is maintained. It also regulates other hormones including progesterone and estrogen, which all work synergistically to carry out a balanced pregnancy.

Glucose Levels and Resistance to Insulin

Hunger pangs during early pregnancy are also caused by the woman’s glucose levels and her body’s resistance to insulin. When pregnant, a woman’s body is less sensitive to insulin. This is known as insulin resistance. It occurs because the placenta releases hormones that alter the body’s usage of insulin thus changing the blood’s glucose levels.

Higher Metabolic Rate

Since a woman’s body is a host to a growing baby, it is normal for her metabolic rate to rise. This physiological change increases appetite. By the second trimester, a woman requires an additional 340 calories per day to support the pregnancy.

What Nutritional Requirements Must be Considered During Pregnancy?

Several nutritional factors must be considered to carry out a healthy pregnancy.

What is the Daily Calorie Intake Advised by Physicians?

The National Library of Medicine published a report that suggests pregnant women eat a particular amount of calories.

A woman with an average body weight should consume approximately 1,800 calories each day during the first trimester. During the second trimester, it raises to 2,200 daily calories and raises again to 2,400 daily calories during the third trimester.

Intake of Carbohydrates, Fats, Protein, Vitamins, and Minerals During Pregnancy

According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), pregnant women must consume a healthy variety of complex carbohydrates including vegetables and whole grains. Healthy fats should include healthy omega-3s found in healthy choices such as avocados and fish. The protein intake should include a variety of health sources such as legumes, lean meats, eggs, and nuts.

Additionally, some key vitamins and minerals must be consumed such as calcium, iron, iodine, choline, folic acid, and various others.

Fiber Plays an Important Role During Pregnancy

Fiber-rich foods are essential during pregnancy and lactation. They help ensure heart health and decrease the risk for diabetes and preeclampsia in addition to preventing constipation. Foods with healthy amounts of fiber are typically nutrient dense and low in calories.

Should Spicy Foods and Caffeine be Avoided During Early Pregnancy?

Foods that should be avoided during early pregnancy include caffeine-rich and spicy foods and beverages. Items include spicy tomato juice, hot peppers, and coffee. Consuming caffeine during pregnancy raises the heart rate and blood pressure, which can lead to dehydration and health complications.

A 2019 study suggests that eating spicy foods during pregnancy may alter the flavor of amniotic fluid, which may influence the child’s food preferences in the future.

What Psychological Factors Can Cause Hunger Pangs During Early Pregnancy?

Several psychological factors affect a woman’s hunger during pregnancy. These include:

Stress Alter Hormones

Traumatic or difficult emotional situations raise cortisol, which is known as the “stress hormone.” This neurotransmitter stimulates hunger, thus producing pangs. Women who are pregnant have many reasons for becoming stressed including the uncertain health of their fetus until delivery. Practice relaxation techniques to help your hormones stay in balance.

Anxiety and Boredom May Affect Eating Patterns

Just like regular people, pregnant women can experience anxiety or boredom-induced hunger. This type of “emotional eating” is a psychological response, rather than a physical need for food.

Dehydration Leads to Hunger Pangs

Whether you’re pregnant or not, dehydration can be confused with hunger. It is best to drink plenty of water when experiencing hunger to make sure you are fully hydrated. This is recommended for all people, but it is especially important for pregnant women.

The Importance of Sufficient Fluid Intake

Pregnant women need to ensure they are fully hydrated, especially during the highly crucial first trimester. Your physician should be able to provide guidelines for your individual fluid intake needs. Being hydrated will support your fetus, keep your body temperature regulated, decrease the risk of urinary tract infections, aid digestion, and support other physiological functions.

What Symptoms Can I Expect When Experiencing Hunger Pangs During My Early Pregnancy?

There is a wide range of symptoms associated with hunger pangs during early pregnancy.

Growling of the Stomach

One of the most common symptoms is stomach growling. This is caused by the movement of fluids and gases in your digestive tract.

Mild or Severe Nausea

Nausea should subside once you eat or drink something substantial. It is caused by hydrochloric acid, which accumulates on an empty stomach.

Lightheadedness or Dizziness

When you are hungry your blood sugar levels drop, which can cause you to feel lightheaded or dizzy. Dehydration is another cause of this symptom.

Mood Swings and Irritability

Sometimes hunger can make a person experience mood swings or irritability. This is heightened by changes in hormonal and blood sugar levels during pregnancy.

Tiredness and Fatigue

Dehydration and a decrease in blood sugar levels accompanied by hunger pangs can make a pregnant woman feel fatigued.

When Should I See My Physician if I Experience Unusual Hunger Patterns?

During early pregnancy, it’s important to see your doctor if you experience any alarming symptoms including unusual hunger patterns. Unusual hunger symptoms include:

  • Excessive or insatiable appetite
  • Unexplained changes in weight
  • Blood sugar imbalance
  • Unsure about nutritional deficiencies
  • Any other unusual symptoms

How Can I Ease Hunger Pangs During Pregnancy?

There are several ways you can ease hunger pangs during all stages of your pregnancy. Try these methods:

Eat Small Meals Instead of Overeating

Instead of eating large meals, try aiming for smaller meals spaced out throughout the day. It will help you achieve steady levels of energy.

Eat More Frequently

It is better to eat five to six small meals each day instead of two to three larger meals. Doing this will keep your blood sugar levels balanced.

Adopt Healthy Sleeping Patterns

Disruption in your sleeping habits can alter your hormonal balance. Getting sufficient sleep and synchronizing your body with the natural circadian rhythm during pregnancy will help keep your hormone levels healthy to support a regular appetite pattern.

Stay Busy and Content

Since anxiety and boredom play a role in eating habits, it is recommended to take care of your mental health during pregnancy. Find ways to make your days productive and entertaining.

Stay Hydrated With a Quality Water Source

Water is one of the best nutrients with which you can supply your body. Be sure to find a quality water source that guarantees you plenty of minerals and electrolytes.

Adopt a Healthy Pregnancy Nutrition Plan

A healthy nutrition plan during pregnancy is essential for both mother and baby. Include a wide variety of fresh nutrient-dense foods. Eat a well-rounded diet that includes healthy proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

In addition, you would benefit from working with a pre-natal nutritionist to ensure you supplement your diet well with essential nutrients. Always consult with your doctor before adopting a new nutrition plan.

Maintain an Abundant Food Supply

A key to eating healthy is making sure you have an abundant supply of healthy foods. Always keep your pantry and fridge well-stocked. You can also choose healthy food vendors that can consistently deliver food at your convenience.

Eat small, frequent meals

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Keep Snacks With You at All Times

One way to stay on track with your healthy pregnancy eating plan is to carry snacks with you. Raw nuts, seeds, and fruits are easy to carry with you and provide you with plenty of essential nutrients. Plus, remember to keep bottles of water in your bag or vehicle.

Keep Your Pregnancy Weight in Check

Carrying out your pregnancy with a healthy weight will help your baby develop, ensures your health, and assists your body during postpartum recovery. Limit empty calories, stay active, and monitor your weight regularly.

Maintain Healthy Eating Habits

Once you figure out your ideal nutrition plan, you can stay on track by practicing conscious choices. Focus on frequent small meals, staying hydrated, and eating healthy foods that are pleasing to your palette.

Keep Your Calorie Intake in Check

Your physician and nutritionist will be able to guide you as you determine how many calories per day you should consume during your pregnancy. It is a misconception that you are supposed to eat for two people while you’re pregnant.

Determining your unique calorie requirements involves assessing your age, pre-pregnancy body weight, activity level, and other factors. A great way to avoid excessive calories is to choose nutrient-dense foods while avoiding sugary drinks such as sodas.

Avoid Temptations

Being pregnant is a major motivating factor in maintaining healthy eating patterns. A helpful tip is to create delicious recipes that are wholesome and packed with nutrients. You may also choose various store-bought products and find local food vendors that can supply you with satisfying choices.

Get proper sleep

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Make Breakfast Your Most Important Meal

Starting your day with a healthy breakfast will help you get on the right track all day long. At the start of the day, it is key to hydrate well and supply your body with enough nutrients to begin your activities.

How to Avoid Hunger Pangs From Interrupting Your Sleep

To avoid hunger from interrupting your sleep, start with good habits early in the day. Be sure to eat enough nutritious foods throughout the day to avoid being hungry at night.

Good Habits Before Going to Sleep

Be sure your dinner is substantial and have a bedtime snack if you feel hungry.

What to Do if You Wake Up Hungry During the Night

If you wake up hungry during the night, try breathing and relaxation techniques that can help you fall back to sleep.



Is it normal to have hunger pangs in early pregnancy?

Yes, hormonal levels and the increased caloric need make you hungry during early pregnancy.

How can I stop hunger pangs in early pregnancy?

Adopt healthy eating habits, take care of your mental health, and stay hydrated among other healthy habits.

Is my baby hungry when I’m hungry during pregnancy?

Your baby relies on you for nutrition, but it doesn’t mean that it feels hungry when you are.

What do hunger pains feel like during pregnancy?

Hunger pains during pregnancy feel similar to when you’re not pregnant. However, when you’re pregnant, hunger pains can be accompanied by fatigue, nausea, and other symptoms.