The truth is, no one actually knows why women have cravings when they are pregnant. It is suspected that a craving is the body’s way of asking for a nutrient it needs. For example, if a woman finds herself craving pickles, her body may actually be asking for more sodium. When a woman is experiencing a craving, her taste buds maybe interpreting the nutrient her body needs into a specific food item. Pregnancy food aversion can also play a part in what a woman craves. High hormone levels during pregnancy can alter a woman’s smell and taste which can make some food more appealing or even more offensive.
Craving generally fall into the categories of salty, spicy, sweet and sour. The main concern with cravings is that women will reach for unhealthy foods to satisfy them. Eating the wrong foods to satisfy cravings can lead to too much weight gain and also lead to missing other nutrients that they need. When experiencing an unhealthy craving, women should take the time to try and find out what it is their body really needs. Try and break down the craving and get to the root of what is desired. Doing this can help women skip the unhealthy snacks and reach for a healthier alternative. For example, if a woman is craving ice cream, she could try eating sorbet or nonfat frozen yogurt instead.
In general, craving are not harmful to the mother of the baby. However, cravings can become dangerous if the mother experiences a craving for nonfood items. This is a condition called pica. People with pica may crave:
Lead is one of the most dangerous aspects of pica. Consuming lead, which can be found in clay and dirt, while pregnant can lead to infant and child development problems. If a woman finds herself craving non food items during pregnancy, she should see her doctor immediately.
As always, we at the Sholes Center for Women’s Health recommend speaking with your healthcare provider about any questions or concerns you may have about your health.