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Cravings

Most women will experience some type of craving during their pregnancy. There are two types of pregnancy cravings: food cravings and non-food cravings (also known as pica cravings). Pregnancy cravings vary from one woman to the next, and the objects of these cravings can be sweet, salty, spicy, or fatty. Over half of all pregnant women experience some type of pregnancy craving.

Types of Pregnancy Cravings

There are two types of cravings; food and non-food.

  • Food cravings are anything you can eat, whether you normally eat them or not.
  • Non-food cravings are when you crave other things besides food, such as laundry soap, dirt, or even cigarette ashes. This is a medical condition known as pica

Causes of Pregnancy Cravings

The simplest explanation for pregnancy cravings is the growing baby inside you. As the baby constantly takes away nutrients that your body needs, your body triggers pregnancy cravings to replace these nutrients and replenish itself. Many women have trouble keeping up with their bodies’ demands for iron, magnesium, protein, and sugar—foods the body needs to stay healthy while pregnant. Even vegetarians find themselves craving meat at times due to the lack of protein in their systems. Some expectant mothers crave tomatoes to satisfy their need for iron, and other women crave bananas when their bodies want more potassium.

Pregnancy cravings are our body’s way of telling us we need more of something. But it’s important to remember not to overindulge or give in too often to a craving while you’re pregnant. Your body only needs an extra 300–500 calories a day to maintain a healthy pregnancy.

When it comes to non-food cravings, there is no real explanation for them. It’s a mystery why pregnant women crave dirt, clay, mothballs, burnt matches, and charcoal, among other things. Cigarette smoke is unhealthy for pregnant women, yet many women find themselves craving the smoke, ashes, and even butts of the cigarettes. Some experts believe that the non-food cravings are due to an iron deficiency, but this is only speculation. Other experts think these strange pregnancy cravings are our bodies’ attempts to obtain vitamins and minerals that are not present in our normal diets.

Dealing with Pregnancy Cravings

You can always give into your food cravings. If you need sugar, a little ice cream or candy won’t do you any harm. However, it’s very important that you try to control your cravings and not give in all the time—and when you do give in, limit yourself.

Giving in to non-food pregnancy cravings is usually unhealthy. You should never eat things such as cigarette ashes or butts, mothballs, or laundry soap. These items will definitely do more harm than good for you and your baby.

Eating breakfast every morning can help curb pregnancy cravings you may have during the day. Also, eating small meals throughout your day can also help reduce the frequency of these cravings. Also, instead of eating sweets or salty junk food, you can always eat healthy foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables, which are full of the nutrients your body needs.

Keep your healthcare provider informed of all your pregnancy cravings, whether they are food- or non-food-related. It’s important you keep your doctor informed about everything that has to do with your pregnancy. Your doctor knows your situation better than anyone and can give you better advice that is specific to you.

To learn more about nutrition during pregnancy, click here.

[Page updated October 2014]