Weird Pregnancy Cravings and You

Weird Pregnancy Cravings and You

Last week, we posted a roundup of hilarious TV scenes that involved pregnancy in some way. On our list was a clip from the classic show, “I Love Lucy,” where Miss Lucy herself starts craving some very, very strange things. We’re talking papaya milkshake mixed with dill pickles, and pistachio ice cream with hot fudge and… sardines.

Her endearing and oh-so-sweet Ricky asks the question everyone wants to know, “How can you possibly eat that?

So today, with the help from a few experts, we’re giving you the 411 on all your pregnancy cravings. It’s important to note that there are no conclusive explanations for the myriad weird cravings women experience when they’re pregnant. However, there are a number of strong theories.

Hormones and Pregnancy Cravings

“There are several reasons why a woman, during pregnancy, may have weird pregnancy cravings,” says Monica Grover, an osteopathic physician who specializes in women’s health and clinical nutrition. To begin, she explains, pregnancy can cause a heightened desire for foods you craved before you had a bun in the oven. This is typically due to hormones.

“If prior to pregnancy a woman has particular cravings, then during pregnancy she may have a higher predisposition to these cravings,” says Grover. That means that if you always found yourself craving blue cheese stuffed olives or chocolate chip cookies before you were with-child, those cravings can become even stronger as your pregnancy progresses.

Before we go any further, let’s talk about those hormones a bit. There are two hormones, in particular, that may be linked to all those strong and sometimes strange cravings.

“The first is Leptin, which is secreted by fat cells,” says Grover. Leptin is responsible for decreasing your appetite and increasing your metabolism. It also diminishes throughout your pregnancy, which may be to blame for your increased appetite and decrease in metabolism.

The second important craving-linked hormone is Neuropeptide Y, which is an appetite stimulant. Neuropeptide Y actually increases when you’re pregnant, which then causes you to be more hungry, more often.

Grover explains that hormonal fluctuations can explain your heightened cravings. They can also cause you to crave foods you may not have been that interested in before — include bizarre foods or weird combinations. These cravings typically begin in the first trimester of your pregnancy and will only get stronger as you go into your second.

Note that while indulging yourself occasionally is OK, it’s important to find nutritional alternatives for both you and your baby’s well-being. For example, your desire for certain foods may be your body’s way of telling you it needs a particular nutrient. Let’s say you’ve got a hankering for brownies or fries. What your body probably wants is healthy carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, popcorn or wild rice.

Cravings Through Your Trimesters

Throughout your three trimesters, you may find yourself craving certain things more than others. This is often a result of the hormones we discussed above. It may also be due to your body’s need for a particular nutrient or substance. Additionally, the need for certain nutrients could very well cause those exceptionally strange food cravings, such as Lucy’s pickles and milkshake concoction. In other words, it’s your body’s way of telling you it wants — no, needs — x, y, and z.

While these super strange cravings do occur, you’ll find that many of your food hankerings are run-of-the-mill cravings that have to do with what your body needs at any given time throughout your pregnancy.

“A healthy, pregnant woman’s cravings in the first trimester is often for fruits, vegetables and carbohydrates as the baby’s growth at that time demands extra vitamin C, and carbohydrates possibly to help mom’s energy levels as she normally suffers from severe fatigue in first trimester,” explains Birgitta Lauren, a pre and postnatal fitness and nutritional expert. “The vitamin C demands are possibly for boosting nutrient absorption, as moms needs double and triple.”

Contrarily, you may find yourself absolutely disgusted by the thought of certain foods. This is especially true in your first trimester when your baby is just beginning to develop.

“Many pregnant women will have aversions to raw onion, garlic, and other vegetables, perhaps as they could be contaminated if not super fresh and eaten or cooked immediately after slicing,” says Lauren. “It’s also common for pregnant women to have aversions to red meat, chicken and fish in the first half of their pregnancy, when a baby is most vulnerable to miscarriage from food poisoning. Those women usually gag when they see raw meat and can’t cook it themselves.”

However, as you move into the final weeks and months of your pregnancy, you may actually find yourself seriously craving those very meats that you wanted nothing to do with before. Lauren says this is linked to boosted demands by the baby for protein, amino acids, omega fatty acids, B12, iron, zinc, etc. when the brain’s developing.

“This seems to happen to even vegetarians, so it is definitely a biological demand for proper development of baby as those nutrients do improve brain function. And these nutrients are only found in animal foods in essential proportions for human function and development,” says Lauren.

You’ve probably figured out the trend here: your cravings in each trimester are closely linked to what you and your baby need in order to remain healthy.

What About Those Really Weird Pregnancy Cravings?

You’ve probably heard about, or personally experienced, some truly bizarre pregnancy cravings. For example, some people crave dirt, stone, clay or chalk. These cravings are not as common as those outlined above, but they do happen. In other words, if you’ve suddenly got an appetite for clay or dirt, don’t panic! You’re not weird. Just don’t go digging in the backyard for a tasty stone and instead head to your doctor’s office.

In the book, “The Mommy Docs’ Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy and Birth,” the authors discuss this phenomenon. They explain that these unusual cravings for substances with little or no nutritional value (referred to as Pica) can be due to the body’s attempt to replace iron and other minerals that are not present in regular food. They recommend you consult with your doctor if unhealthy cravings develop. Your doctor can then help you find supplements, such as iron tablets, to satisfy your cravings and, as a result, your body.



This page was last updated on 06/2017
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