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Food Cravings During Pregnancy

Food cravings and avoidances can occur at any time during pregnancy and usually last only a short while. The four most commonly avoided foods are milk, lean meats, pork, and liver. The most commonly craved foods are sweets and dairy products. The most common aversions are alcohol, caffeinated drinks, and meats.

Many food behaviors are due to the woman's perception of which foods increase or decrease symptoms like nausea and heartburn. Because the sense of taste is sometimes decreased during pregnancy, there may be an increased desire for highly seasoned foods.

Things to remember:

  • Ensure your diet contains adequate amounts of all food groups.
  • Food cravings are of no concern when the diet provides adequate calories and nutrition
  • Cravings can result in benefits of increased calcium and energy intake, while aversions can cause women to avoid alcohol and caffeine but also result in decreased animal protein intake

Pica - Non-food Cravings

Pica is the ingestion of substances that are not normally considered edible and have no nutritive value. For most women it starts and ends with the pregnancy. The most common substances are dirt, clay, starch, ice, and freezer frost. Cravings can be for other substances including soap, toothpaste, coffee grounds, newspaper, hair, charcoal, and baking soda. This can affect anyone and the cause is poorly understood. Theories include relief of nausea and vomiting and deficiency of nutrients such as calcium and iron that results in eating non-food items that contain them.

Things to remember:
Pica is best indulged in limited quantities in order not to interfere with a nutritious diet. The medical implications are not well understood, but possible dangers including the following should be considered:

  • Toxic compounds or large quantities of nutrients that cannot be tolerated could be ingested
  • Pica can cause of iron and other mineral deficiencies by interfering with absorption
  • Less commonly reported complications are lead poisoning, infection, and bowel obstruction
  • Reduced intake of nutritious foods can lead to inadequate dietary intakes of essential nutrients and weight loss could result
  • Substances like starch that provide calories could lead to weight gain

If you have any questions or would like more information, please call our Women's Center at 605-322-3444 or 888-404-1865.

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