Pregnant and Feel Full After Eating? What to Do (By Trimester)

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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Pregnancy comes with some discomforts, such as morning sickness, back pain, bloating, and stomach issues. If you feel full even after eating a small meal, you might wonder what it means and how you can manage it.

Feeling full while pregnant is normal throughout all trimesters. If you experience this common symptom, it’s important to make sure you are getting all the macro- and micronutrients you need. 

This article covers what to do and how to manage this symptom of pregnancy.

The First Trimester

The first trimester is when women usually feel the first wave of morning sickness, mood swings, cravings, and nausea. This is due to your hormones going crazy.

pregnant woman at first trimester holding a bowl of healthy green salad with lettuce, avocado and tomatoes

At this time, you have high levels of progesterone circulating in your body, which causes your muscles to relax. Progesterone is an important hormone for successful implantation.

Progesterone also affects your digestive muscles, and can cause constipation and indigestion (source: WebMD). This may be why you feel full even after just a small meal.

The combination of these sensations may make mealtime a little frustrating, especially if you also experience cravings. Having intense cravings during pregnancy, followed by feeling full after only a few bites can be pretty annoying.

Pregnancy also increases your micro- and macronutrient needs, but how can you keep up with your nutritional requirements if a small bite is too much to handle? Here are some tips.

  1. Eat small, frequent meals. Schedule breakfast, lunch, and dinner with little snacks in between. You may eat half a sandwich now, and keep the rest for later (just make sure it is stored properly and safely).
  2. Choose healthy foods that are full of nutrients you and your baby need, such as protein, good fat,  iron, folate, calcium, and other vitamins. Great examples are vegetable soups, porridge, mueslis, and cereals.
  3. Try walking or doing some light exercises to get your body moving, which can help with digestive discomfort (source: ACOG).
  4. Eat starchy foods, as these are studied to lessen the effects of nausea. Ginger, lemon, and cold foods are other great options.

These tips will ensure that even if you eat considerably less food, you still meet your daily needs.

The Second Trimester

A lot of women experience relief from side effects of pregnancy during the second trimester. Morning sickness, cravings, and nausea usually lessen at this time. However, digestive issues may still continue as progesterone levels continue to increase.

happy pregnant woman at second trimester eats healthy food vegetable salad on the sofa at home

As explained above, progesterone can cause you to feel full easily. In addition, at this stage, your baby is now big enough to cause some discomfort.

As your baby grows, some internal organs like the bladder, stomach, and intestines can be pushed aside. This contributes to the feeling of fullness (source: Hopkins Medicine). At this stage, it may be a good idea to still stick with small, frequent meals, just like during the first trimester.

Additionally, continue with regular walking and light exercises, which help with bowel movements. Eating fiber-rich foods also helps with constipation.

The Third Trimester

For some women, the third trimester can be the most challenging in terms of body aches and discomfort. The size of your baby has a lot to do with that! Each day, your baby gets closer to full birth weight.

During this trimester, the baby will push more into your organs, especially your stomach, thus making you feel full much faster (source: UTSW Med). 

One great trick for consuming more nutrients during mealtime is to avoid drinking water during meals. This ensures that the limited amount your stomach can hold is occupied with nutrient-dense and healthy food, instead of being filled with water.

pregnant woman at third trimester drinking water

Of course, you still need to stay hydrated and drink enough water, but saving it for between meals should help you get the nutrients you need.

If you feel too full to even think about food, it’s okay. Focus on staying hydrated, and nibble on some food from time to time, preferably nutritious and filling foods, such as yogurt with fruit and seeds, or nuts.

Make sure not to wait too long between meals, since this can increase the risk of nausea and even hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, which can lead to other complications. 

Pregnancy brings new sensations for expectant mothers, which can be scary. However, most of them are normal and can be managed, especially if you know what to expect.