Pregnancy cravings 101 - What you need to know
Nobody knows why pregnant women have cravings
There are three key theories:
The hormones did it! During pregnancy, the body produces a wide range of new hormones; as well as increasing production of some and reducing production of others. Hormones affect every aspect of how our bodies work and react to things. In theory, a drastic change of hormones would explain any out of character behaviour.
Heightened senses. Pregnant women across the world will highlight how sensitive their sense of smell and taste becomes in pregnancy. This often causes food aversions. The theory goes that cravings may be a way to counter unpleasant tastes or smells.
The pregnant body knows what it needs. Simply put, biology. This theory says that if your body has certain deficiencies, it will send a craving to your brain that is related to, or contains, what it needs. Low sodium? An increase in cravings for crisps or pickles. Low protein? An increase in cravings for meat.
Whatever the reason, pregnancy cravings happen. From as early as two or three weeks pregnant, some women begin experiencing overwhelming cravings. Stories from everyday moms of how running out of the curry she was craving led to hours of sobbing, are not rare. Other moms may not experience any cravings at all.
How to manage pregnancy cravings
Most cravings are completely harmless. Those that may not be ideal in large quantities, like sweets or chocolate, are perfectly alright to have in moderation. If you find yourself filling up on foods that are low in nutritional value, look at healthier alternatives.
General wisdom suggests you take a moment to identify the root of the craving to figure out the best substitute to meet your needs in a healthier way. Craving mango ice cream? Is it the dairy? The sweetness? The taste of mango? The icy coldness? Depending on your answer, a healthier option could be a yoghurt with fresh mango. Or a low fat frozen yoghurt.
There are some cravings you should go with, or change slightly for healthier options. There are some you should avoid altogether; you should speak to your treating doctor to find out foods to avoid in pregnancy. And then there are pregnancy cravings that should send you straight to visit your doctor for a checkup.
When pregnancy cravings may be a warning
If your cravings for sweets and sugar are very strong, particularly in the second trimester, you should have your doctor check your sugar levels. Although it isn't directly linked to it, those who have gestational diabetes tend to have ongoing intense sugar cravings throughout their pregnancy.
It isn't common, but cravings for non-food items, called Pica, do happen in some pregnancies. As strange as it sounds, pregnant women can have cravings for anything from ice to dirt, paint chips, laundry detergent or even chalk. While there is a theory that it could stem from an iron deficiency, there is no solid evidence to support this. Ingesting some of these things can be incredibly dangerous for your health and for the health of your baby. So if you start wondering what your bubble bath might taste like, book an appointment sooner rather than later.
Did you crave anything in pregnancy? Share with us what it was.