The Causes of Food Aversion during Pregnancy

Everybody had heard the clichés of pregnant women wanting pickles and ice cream or other bizarre food combinations. This was something I strongly associated with pregnancy, thinking for many women one of the first symptoms they experienced would be strong, strange cravings. It didn’t occur to me that there would also be the direct opposite effect until I gave my best friend a piece of ginger candy and she flew out of the room like the mob was after her.

I was befuddled. She had always loved ginger. She loved it in food, she loved it in drinks, and she was known among our circle of friends for always carrying around a little bag of crystallized ginger pieces in case anyone felt sick. When I heard that she had been dealing with some morning sickness, I thought she would love a few of the old fashioned ginger candies sold at the nostalgic general store near my mother’s house. Instead, they sent her reeling for the bathroom as soon as one touched her tongue, and then she spent the next hour lying on the couch trying to regain composure. She would never regain her love of ginger. Even after her baby was born, she would not be able to enjoy even the mention of the root. What had happened? What had pregnancy done to ruin the great love of ginger she had once had?

Food cravings in pregnancy are common, but so are food aversions. Referred to by researchers as “taste aversions,” these are often-dramatic feelings of disgust toward particular foods, tastes and food smells. Sometimes just being in the room with the food will cause nausea or vomiting. Just as with cravings, there is little known about the actual cause of food aversions. Some researchers believe some food aversions appear in the majority of pregnant woman and are the body’s instinctual attempt to keep the woman from eating foods that could be harmful to her or her baby during pregnancy. Other aversions occur when the pregnant woman is having symptoms of morning sickness, so the ill feelings become associated with that food. These feelings then become linked in the mind of the pregnant woman and she feels aversion to the food or smell throughout her pregnancy. No real links can be made between food cravings and food aversions during pregnancy, except to say they tend to both manifest rather than just one. Also, the first feelings of nausea during pregnancy and the first food aversions generally occur within the same week of pregnancy. They usually fade during the later stages of pregnancy or after the baby is born, but for some women they will persist long after pregnancy has ended.

Source: Bayley Tracy M, et al. Food cravings and aversions during pregnancy: a relationship with nausea and vomiting, Appetite, Volume 38, Issue 1, February 2002, pp 45-51.