Pregnancy Cravings

Most women will experience a type of craving during their pregnancy. There are two types of pregnancy cravings; food cravings and non food cravings (pica cravings). The reasons for the cravings range from nutrient deficiency to the simple fact that there’s a growing baby inside of you. Cravings themselves can range from sweet to salty, spicy to fatty. There’s no scientific explanation for the cravings, however over half of all pregnant women experience some type of craving during their pregnancy.

Types of 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 and even cigarette ashes. This is a medical condition known as pica

Causes of Cravings

Although the causes for the cravings are not scientifically based, there are obvious reasons why women crave certain foods and non-foods. The simplest explanation for food cravings is the growing baby inside of you. As the baby constantly takes away nutrients that your body needs, your body is triggered by cravings to replace and replenish itself. Many women have trouble keeping up with the lack of iron, magnesium, protein and sugar their body needs to stay healthy while pregnant. Even vegetarians find themselves craving meat at times due to the lack of protein in their system. Some expectant mothers crave tomatoes to satisfy the need for iron, and other women crave bananas when their bodies want more potassium.

Cravings are our body’s way of telling us we need more of something. However it’s important to remember not to over indulge or give in too often to a craving while you’re pregnant. Your body only needs an extra 300-500 calories a day when you’re pregnant 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, however nothing is for certain. Other experts think the cravings are our body’s attempt to obtain vitamins and minerals that are not present in the food consumption. But again, there is no real evidence of this phenomenon.

Dealing with Cravings

You can always give into your food cravings. If you need sugar, a little ice cream or candy won’t add 10 pounds instantly. However, it’s very important that you try to control your cravings by not giving in all the time, and when you do give in, limiting yourself.

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

Eating breakfast every morning can help curve appetites and cravings you may have during the day or night. Also, eating small meals throughout your day can also help reduce cravings you may have. Or instead of eating non-healthy foods to make up for your lack of nutrients, you can always eat healthy foods. There are healthy foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables that are full of the nutrients your body needs.

Keep your health care provider informed of all your cravings, whether they are food or non-food related. It’s important you keep them in the loop with everything that has to do with your pregnancy. Your doctor or midwife 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]