Mmm…Anchovies and Cream Cheese!
Those rumors aren’t entirely wrong: you really might want pickles on your ice cream sundae. Some of the most common foods pregnant women crave are sweet, salty, or sour, and often can result in crazy combinations:
Why do I suddenly want bell peppers in birthday cake?
While nothing is proven regarding pregnancy cravings, there are a few theories. One common theory suggests a deficiency in vitamins: your body is responding to a lack of nutrition by literally telling you what it wants. Another theory implies that it has something to do with alternating hormonal levels. Whatever the reason, it’s perfectly normal.
But what if what you’re craving isn’t food?
Cravings for non-food items, or certain smells, is actually a disorder known as pica. According to a study done by Towson University, pica is most common in children aged 1-6, with 10-32% craving non-food items, but can also be experienced during pregnancy. Non-food items can be anything from dirt to paint, and consumption of such materials can actually be harmful to you and your baby.
We’ve all heard about craving pickles and ice cream, but paint chips?
While consuming non-food items can be harmful, craving them is nothing to worry about. “Common” pica cravings include dirt, laundry soap, ash, charcoal, and paint. Pica cravings can also be smells: gasoline, paint, rain. Indulging in these cravings is not advised; instead, tell your healthcare provider of your cravings. Likely, they’ll want to monitor your iron and vitamin levels; while mineral deficiency isn’t credited as the cause of pica, it’s a likely factor.
You’re Not Alone
Craving something you know you can’t eat can be alarming, but know that you’re not alone. In addition to expecting mothers, the entire population is at risk for pica. After Britney Spears admitted her cravings for dirt during pregnancy, MTV investigated this strange new medical disorder. The result? Several episodes of My Strange Addiction focusing on people living with pica: from eating couch cushions to licking cleaners, every day people suffered from the same intense craving for non-food items. Some veterinarians will even claim the disorder as the reason Sparky ate your favorite pair of slippers.
While pica is a recognized disorder, there is still a lot that is uncertain: its causes, treatment, how long it may last. Most studied cases could be altered by a change of vitamins or dietary routine, or didn’t last past pregnancy, although it can still be alarming.
Walnut Hill OBGYN is a leading women's clinic in the Dallas, TV area. For more information, visit: http://walnuthillobgyn.com/