Have you ever wondered if you’re the only one who just can't stomach a certain food during pregnancy? It’s certainly something I wondered. During my first trimester, I couldn’t handle thinking about, talking about or touching chicken – it caused an immediate gag reflex.
While chicken seems to be common among pregnancy food aversions, there's plenty of other foods that become total turnoffs when you're a mom-to-be, even if you loved them before. It's seemingly random and totally perplexing.
But there is an explanation. It’s called Disgust. (Yep, you read it correctly!) Disgust is an emotion triggering behavioral avoidance of pathogens, and serves as a first line of defense against infections. The emotion is usually evident when immunological function is lower, which happens during pregnancy and most evidently during the first trimester because maternal immunosuppression is also the highest.
Why? Dr. Julia Hormes, PhD and Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Albany, provides some food for thought: "Aversions seem to be adaptive and could potentially indicate a protective mechanism. It was thought that before we came into an era of food processing, food technology and food safety protocol -- women were averse to foods that contained the highest amount of harmful pathogens that could hurt the fetus."
Additionally, this study found that the intensity of disgust felt by pregnant women could be related to the gender of the fetus. More specifically, women bearing sons had relatively high disgust sensitivity. “The elevation in disgust sensitivity during the second trimester for mothers bearing male fetus can be explained by the necessity to protect for a longer time.”
For the most part, there’s not enough science to help understand the most popular food aversions -- even the aforementioned study’s sample group was only 92 participants. But at least if you are experiencing food aversions during pregnancy, know you're not alone. And if Disgust is in fact to blame, it's thankfully only temporary.