Pregnancy Cravings: When Not To Worry; When to Worry

Posted by Gena Sayers on July 29, 2015

Cravings during a pregnancy are common, and vary from woman to woman. During my first pregnancy I craved cinnamon and sugar anything. Churros, toast, donuts, whatever I could get my hands on that was predominantly cinnamon and sugar covered. I couldn’t get enough!

With my second pregnancy, the cravings didn’t kick in until the last 3 weeks of my term. Once the cravings kicked in, all I wanted to eat were cherry popsicles and pretty much anything with that artificial cherry flavor. While I didn’t worry about the cravings I had with my first child, the whole cherry flavored anything worried me, because I wouldn’t eat anything else. When I talked to my doctor about it, he shrugged it off saying at least I was keeping cool in the summer heat.

So when should we worry about our cravings during pregnancy? According to the American Pregnancy Association (2015), we have no need to worry unless we are craving nonfood items. The condition, called pica, can be formed which gives the person in question cravings for things like dirt or chalk. While it is more common for children to develop this condition, it does on occasion occur in pregnancy. Common pica cravings during pregnancy include, dirt, chalk, clay, and laundry starch, but can also include matches, stones, charcoal, mothballs, ice, toothpaste, soap, sand, plaster, coffee grounds, baking soda, and cigarette ashes.

The causes of pregnancy pica are still unknown, though there could be a connection to iron deficiency, and some experts speculate it could be the body’s way of making up for vitamins and minerals that are lacking in regular foods. There could also be underlying physical or mental issues involved. Pica cravings are unhealthy, and potentially harmful to both mother and unborn baby. Non-food items deplete the body of natural vitamins and minerals and can result in deficiencies, as well as the possibility of parasitic or toxic ingredients.

If you find yourself craving non-food items such as those listed above, don’t panic. Contact your primary care physician or whoever is handling the medical concerns of your pregnancy and tell them what is going on, so iron and other vitamins and minerals can be monitored. Find a suitable substitute for the cravings, such as chewing gum or maybe sucking on hard candy. Let a trusted friend or family member know what is going on as well, so they can help you keep an eye on it and prevent you from indulging in those pica cravings. Though it is not common, it does happen and is not considered abnormal. Understanding the risk of these cravings is essential for a healthy pregnancy.

Reference: American Pregnancy Association. (2015). Pregnancy and pica. Retrieved online from the American
Pregnancy Association at Pica: Causes, Common Cravings and Risks During Pregnancy

This article is for informational purposes only. You should contact your doctor with specific concerns or changes to your or your child's health.