What Happens When You Don't Eat While Pregnant?

Malnutrition and starvation during pregnancy will affect more than the growing baby. The mother’s health will decline as the body strives to support the fetus in the absence of nutrients required to do so. What happens when mom doesn’t eat while pregnant -- the adverse health risks increase exponentially dependant on the amount of time since mom’s last meal. Missing a meal here or there is not advised, but probably will not result in the severe health risks discussed in this article.

Birth Defects

Micronutrient deficiencies are linked to birth defects, or deformities, in babies of malnourished mothers. If mom does not eat while pregnant, the baby will not get the proper nutrients needed to grow. The spinal cord and brain of the growing fetus is easily damaged and requires a daily supply of 600 to 800 mcg folic acid or defects such as spina bifida will ensue. Lack of calcium rich foods, such as salmon, spinach and dairy, stop the baby from forming healthy bones and teeth .

Premature Delivery


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A few types of premature delivery may occur in a mother who is not eating, and the mortality of such deliveries depends upon how far the pregnancy has progressed. Pregnant women who do not eat due to lengthy fasts or famine risk losing the baby in a miscarriage or a premature stillborn delivery. If the starved mother is able to carry the fetus until the third trimester, the premature baby may be born with serious heart and lung problems from a lack of full development.

Inability to Lactate

A mother’s breasts gain about two pounds of weight during pregnancy in preparation to feed the newborn infant; however, mothers who do not eat while pregnant will be unable to store the extra fat needed to produce milk. In those moms eating a healthy diet, the breast milk provides the newborn with vitamins, nutrients and immune protective factors for ongoing health and development. Pregnant women who do not eat will not provide any milk, much less nutrient dense milk.

Mother's Health Fails


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Anemia and cavities are just some of the health obstacles a pregnant woman will face if she stops eating while pregnant. The average woman is expected to gain 30 pounds during pregnancy and not all of that is for the baby, according to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Without nutrition and iron supplementation, the blood supply cannot increase and a low blood count called anemia will occur. Anemia robs mom of energy, oxygen and concentration as the fetus takes the mom’s iron storage to survive. Similarly, the growing bones of the baby will leech calcium from the mother’s if she is not eating.