Big, ripe, red tomatoes. That is what I craved more than anything else when I was pregnant with my first child. While, the juicy delicacies aren’t considered a very strange craving, or a very unhealthy one, some women have reported craving things like salsa, doughnuts, Tabasco sauce and even dirt.
Which leads some women to wonder: why do I have these strange cravings?
Unfortunately, there is little scientific evidence to why women can’t live without bacon ice cream or poached eggs when they are expecting. But Scott & White OB/GYN, Russell Fothergill, MD, said there are a few theories out there that offer somewhat of an explanation.
“Some people theorize that cravings may be related to the fact that pregnant women have a keener sense of smell and taste,” he said. “And those heightened senses might have something to do with those cravings.”
But the most popular hypothesis is that cravings are ultimately related to vitamin or mineral deficiencies.
“You hear about pregnant women craving pickles. Why would a pregnant woman crave pickles? Well, it may be a sodium deficiency.”
Sodium helps you retain fluid and you have to retain a lot of fluid during pregnancy to gain volume.
The same may be true for a condition called pica that sometimes affects pregnant women. Pica causes women to crave things that have no caloric value or are indigestible like dirt, clay, or even laundry detergent.
“Sometimes cravings can lead to binge eating, so make sure you’re having healthy choices for snacks and try to really avoid binge eating.”
“One of the ones we see fairly often, that’s fairly benign, is eating ice,” Dr. Fothergill said.
Nobody really knows what causes it, but some theorize that it could be from an iron deficiency, he said. And the person has an uncontrollable urge to eat these things.
While craving ice won’t cause any real harm to you or your unborn child, cravings for potentially harmful substances like laundry detergent can be dangerous. The obstetrician said you should tell your doctor right away if you are having these sorts of cravings.
“I’ll tell [the patient] to be aware that they’re doing it and that it could be due to an iron deficiency, so let’s go ahead and start you on an iron tablet a day,” Dr. Fothergill said. “Taking extra iron won’t hurt, and I think on some level that helps them think, oh, I’m treating myself and will maybe break the cycle.”
It also may be helpful to purchase gum or mints to keep the mouth occupied, the doctor said. That way, you’re less likely to put something in there.
While strange cravings need to be addressed, Dr. Fothergill said women should really be concentrating on what they’re eating to nourish their bodies.
“We don’t spend as much time talking about cravings as we do talking about a healthy, balanced diet in general,” he said. “And I tell people that sometimes cravings can lead to binge eating, so make sure you’re having healthy choices for snacks and try to really avoid binge eating.”
Substituting fruit for sweets and eating protein instead of carbohydrates can help keep sugary cravings at bay.
The obstetrician even suggests looking at the information that comes with the high protein, low-carbohydrate diets to give you an idea of what food choices are better, and to help you limit your carbohydrate intake.
“If you feel like you’re having unusual cravings or you’re struggling with your diet, you should mention it to your doctor and even write down what you eat,” Dr. Fothergill said.
What were your strangest pregnancy cravings? How did you deal with them? Did you give in or take a healthier route? Any advice for other preggos?