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What You Need to Know About Pregnancy Cravings

by Vannessa Rhoades 13 Jan 2024
What You Need to Know About Pregnancy Cravings

Pregnancy marks a profound transformation in your body, touching nearly every aspect of your physical self. Amidst these changes, a notable shift often occurs in your appetite, sometimes quite dramatically, even before a positive pregnancy test confirms the news. Certain once-beloved foods may become repulsive, while unexpected cravings for items previously overlooked might emerge. Let’s take a closer look at common pregnancy cravings and learn more about the why, the when, and the extent to which they become a point of concern. 

When Do Pregnancy Cravings Start?

Though the exact reasons for these cravings remain a bit of a mystery to experts, studies suggest that 50% to 90% of pregnant individuals in the U.S. undergo this phenomenon. The onset of weird pregnancy cravings varies among individuals, generally beginning by the end of the first trimester, reaching a peak in the second, and gradually diminishing as the third trimester concludes.

Why Do Pregnant People Experience Food Cravings?

Several theories attempt to explain the origins of these cravings. Hormonal changes, akin to an intensified version of premenstrual syndrome, may alter sensory experiences, sense of smell, and mood, influencing the types of cravings. Heightened olfactory sensitivity during pregnancy can lead to aversions or attractions based on the strength and fragrance of foods. Changing nutritional needs, driven by an increased demand for nutrients like calcium and iron, can manifest as cravings for specific foods. That said, indulging these cravings should be balanced by incorporating more nutrient-rich sources into one's diet.

A survival instinct may also guide cravings, steering individuals away from potentially harmful substances for the developing baby. Preferences for comforting foods, reminiscent of childhood or associated with well-being, often surface. Cultural influences further shape cravings, with regional patterns mirroring those observed in PMS cravings.

What You Need to Know About Pregnancy Cravings

Common Preferences: A Pregnancy Cravings List

There’s certainly a wide spectrum when it comes to pregnancy cravings, with some people experiencing highly unconventional preferences. Interestingly, researchers have identified certain trends that prevail among U.S. women, including cravings for sweets, high-calorie savory carbohydrates, animal proteins, and fruits. Other common cravings include fast food, pickles, ice cream, fruit juice, dairy, vegetables, and chocolate, sometimes culminating in peculiar combinations driven by altered smell and taste perceptions.

Balancing Pregnancy Cravings with Healthy Eating Choices

Navigating pregnancy cravings involves finding a balance between indulgence and maintaining a healthy relationship with food. While it's not the time for strict diets, prioritizing nutritious choices contributes to the well-being of both the mother and the baby. A moderate increase of approximately 500 calories a day is generally recommended, accompanied by attentive listening to one's hunger cues.

Key nutrients, such as calcium, folic acid, iron, and protein, assume heightened importance during pregnancy. Meeting the daily requirement of 1,000 milligrams of calcium means making an effort to incorporate dairy products, dark leafy greens, fish, fortified cereals, juices, nuts, and sesame seeds into the diet. Prenatal vitamins and foods like green leafy veggies, nuts, beans, lentils, and citrus fruits provide folic acid, vital for increased blood supply and neural tube defect prevention. Iron needs, totaling around 27 mg daily, are met through whole grains, meats, dark leafy greens, beans, and nuts, supplemented if anemia occurs. Meats, fish, eggs, nuts, peas, beans, and soy products fulfill protein requirements, averaging 75 grams per day.

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Pregnancy Cravings to Avoid and When to Consult a Doctor

Wondering what happens if you ignore pregnancy cravings? While most pregnancy cravings are harmless and reflect the body's changing needs, some instances demand attention. Cravings for non-food items like dirt, laundry detergent, or paint chips may indicate a medical condition called pica, often associated with iron deficiency (anemia). Consultation with a healthcare provider is crucial in such cases.

Additionally, unexpected cravings for foods contrary to one's usual preferences, such as a vegetarian craving meat, may prompt further investigation. Anemia could be a potential cause, and incorporating non-meat iron sources like nuts and dark leafy greens may be in order. Again, it’s best to consult your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing this situation.

Also, bear in mind that certain foods may pose potential risks during pregnancy, including deli meats, soft cheeses, sushi, and undercooked meats, due to the risk of bacterial contamination. 

The Takeaway

Pregnancy is a great time to savor a diverse range of foods, explore new tastes, and expand your culinary horizons. However, vigilance is necessary if cravings veer towards unhealthy choices or non-food items. For those with a history of eating disorders or facing signs of disordered eating, seeking assistance from a healthcare provider or therapist is vital to ensure a positive and nourishing pregnancy experience.

Ultimately, the journey through pregnancy, cravings, and all, should be guided by the pursuit of feeling good, staying healthy, and nurturing the growing bundle of love within. If challenges with eating arise, support is available to help individuals fully embrace and relish this transformative period.

Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. Please contact your health provider if you have any medical questions or concerns about your child or yourself.

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