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You are around 10 weeks pregnant and suddenly have the urge to have ice cream. Just chocolate vanilla ice cream? No, you want it topped with pickles! Darn, that must have felt outrageous otherwise but you are carrying and that this seems heaven to you. Watch out: Your pregnancy cravings are in full swing officially.
A food craving is a dish you simply cannot get enough of. The most common pregnancy cravings include chocolate, chips, cakes, cookies, carbs, etc… or even chewing ice, chalk, and many more, yes – pregnancy is its own journey to discover. But why and when do pregnancy cravings start? What can you do about healthy choices for pregnancy cravings?
We have cleared all the nooks and crannies of pregnancy cravings in this article. Stretch your legs because you are about to uncover some weird pregnancy cravings and why they are occurring!
So, What Causes Pregnancy Cravings?
Odd food combinations are common during pregnancy; they will be things you would never try otherwise. Frontiers in Psychology publishes research that said about 50% to 90% of American women have specific aversions and cravings towards food. Medical experts are unsure of why they occur but a possible explanation is that craving for certain foods is a pregnant body’s way of asking for missing nutrients. Especially when you are newly pregnant (initially months that is), your baby is experiencing the growth of its vital features.
Another possible explanation would be that the body craves food to produce more blood for yourself and your baby. Rapidly changing hormones are the next thing to blame as studies have shown that they could influence a woman’s smell and taste by alleviating them extensively. Comfort is the third thing that leads to pregnancy cravings. Yeah, food could be a major stress buster!
When Do Pregnancy Cravings Start?
When you get the good news from your doctor, you will usually think of any food cravings you have had recently. So what week do pregnancy cravings start? Are they as early as the first few weeks into pregnancy? Typically, pregnancy cravings start in the first trimester, peak during the second trimester, and decline during the third trimester. Sometimes, doctors have found that they cease to exist after delivery. You may experience food aversion along with your odd cravings. Research suggests they are not related to each other.
What Happens If You Ignore Pregnancy Cravings?
Well, the answer is subjective. Let’s debate the pros and cons of ignoring pregnancy cravings. Studies have shown clearly those food cravings during pregnancy are a sign of your body seeking nutrients that it lacks to keep yourself and your baby healthy. When you crave a particular food, your body may be needing something in that food. Your taste buds interpret it as a craving for something.
On the other hand, what if you unhealthily indulge in your craving? Does it mean you are consuming loads of that particular nutrient? Is that healthy for the body? The answer lies in the type of food your taste buds and brain thought of as your craving. Studies have shown that the more women gave into pregnancy cravings, the more likely they were to gain weight.
If you are craving chocolate doughnuts or ice cream loaded with fat, your weight will blossom to an unhealthy level leading to gestational diabetes. Unusual weight gain also puts you at risk of preeclampsia and problems with labor and delivery.
Pregnancy Craving for Non-food Items: What is Pica?
Pica is a mental health condition where a person is compulsive enough to consume non-food items such as chalk, cement, mud, etc. Pica during pregnancy is a sign of nutrient deficiency and women with the condition crave non-food things like clay or ice. This eating disorder is diagnosed if the compulsion stays for at least a month. Research suggests that it could be related to anemia. A study based in Ghana showed that women at risk of pica had
- A culture or history of eating non-food items
- Nutrient deficiencies or poor nutrition
The same study showed that 47.5% of women experienced some form of pica during pregnancy. If you ever find yourself craving non-food items check in with your doctor immediately and get tested for iron deficiency anemia or other nutritional deficiencies such as zinc.
Pregnancy Cravings List: Healthy Food Fixes For Your Cravings
If you crave
Ice cold non-fat milk whipped with a hand-held immersion blender
Lunch types of meat
Beef hot dogs, soy Bologna, turkey, or low-fat or fat-free meats
Canned fruits in heavy syrup
Juice, fruit packed with water, frozen unsweetened fruit, or fresh fruits
Fresh bananas or berries
Non-fat plain yogurt or non-fat sour cream with herbs
Pretzels, popcorn, or low-sodium, low-fat chips
Whole-grain oatmeal or cereal with brown sugar
Zucchini bread or low-fat banana
Pastry or doughnuts
Whole-grain bagel with fresh fruits jam
Mineral water with fresh lime or juice
Sherbet, sorbet, or non-fat yogurt
Can You Prevent Food Cravings?
Probably not, but stock up on healthier options so that you can indulge without guilt. Refer to our table above to find the right options for some of the most common pregnancy cravings. For instance, you could keep a fresh supply of yogurt and fruits if you are craving dairy products and sweets (although one or two won’t hurt you!).
When Should a Doctor Intervene?
Some cravings during pregnancy can be fatal. Yes, we do mean all cases of pica because that disorder makes you eat things unfit for consumption. If you ever get a strong desire to eat soap, dirt, clay, or other non-food items during your pregnancy, it’s high time you visited a doctor for treating this poisonous condition.
A very small number of women crave drugs or alcohol during pregnancy. Prenatal substance use is a major health concern linked to fatal fetal and maternal consequences. The most commonly used substance during pregnancy is tobacco, seconded by alcohol and cannabis. Few treatments exist for prenatal substance use but with sufficient psychological and behavioral interventions along with contingency management, it could be brought under safe control.
The Bottom Line: Can Pregnancy Cravings Be Dangerous?
You might want french fries for every meal during your pregnancy but make sure you don’t overdo it. Remember that your pregnant body needs nutrients to survive and the lack of them is what is making you crave certain weird foods. Find out what nutrient is hidden in the food you crave and have an alternative food item such as having a whole grain bagel with fruits when you are craving doughnuts.
Most doctors recommend giving into high carbohydrate, high fat, and high salt cravings but only if they last a short time. However, take note: a regular diet of foods high in chemicals, sugar, or fat is unhealthy and can lead to gestational diabetes, excessive weight gain, and other issues. These problems tend to last long after you have given birth. So beware and maintain a healthy pregnancy diet.
Another major issue with pregnancy cravings is pica, a mental health disorder related to eating non-food items. They eventually hurt your baby and can lead to long-term health morbidities. Studies have shown that with pica, your baby could have
- Decreased fetal head circumference
- Low birth weight
- Perinatal mortality
- Exposure to chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, and lead
We recommend that you be cautious and know what’s right and what’s not. If your tummy rumbles a little more than expected, you must quench its thirst while being alert to the choice.
Have a healthy pregnancy!
Pregnancy Cravings FAQs:
1. When do weird pregnancy cravings start?
2. Is craving ice during pregnancy okay?
3. Can craving sweets during pregnancy be healthy?
4. What should you eat if you are craving salt during pregnancy?
5. What does craving spicy food during pregnancy mean?
6. What happens if you eat only oily food during pregnancy?
7. What foods should you avoid during pregnancy?