The jury is still out on why pregnant women develop weird cravings during pregnancy. Some think it has something to do with hormones while others attribute it to nutritional deficiencies. Whatever the reason, we’ve all heard the stories of some strange food cravings experienced during pregnancy, some of which aren’t even classified as edible! Discover more about these weird and wonderful cravings as Bloom delves into the matter.
What causes weird cravings during pregnancy?
Pregnancy cravings start in the first trimester at about 12 weeks. This will peak in the second trimester and decline in the third. Medical professionals believe that one’s morning sickness or hormonal changes might contribute to food cravings.
7 Common food cravings during pregnancy
- Pickled food, like gherkins, that have been soaked in salt and vinegar is often a firm favourite with pregnant women. This could also indicate low sodium levels. That said, pickles are low in calories so are quite a healthy snack.
- Red meat. If you’re craving red meat when you’re pregnant it can often be indicative of a protein or iron deficiency. Opt for lean meat, rather than fatty alternatives, as too much fatty red meat can lead to health complications, like cardiovascular disease.
- Fruit. If you’re craving fruit like lemons, grapefruit, berries and oranges, your body may need vitamins and nutrients, like vitamin C. Fruit is an excellent choice for a healthy diet, but make sure you choose fresh sources rather than canned fruit, which has a high syrup content.
- Chocolate. Who doesn’t love a slab of chocolate? This comfort food is a common weird craving during pregnancy, probably because it contains a chemical called tryptophan which produces serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is involved in the production of endorphins, which is the happy hormone. So, chocolate makes us feel happy. That said, it’s wise to be mindful of the fact that chocolate is high in calories and fat. Try to limit your chocolate consumption or choose dark chocolate as it contains less sugar.
- Spicy food. Pregnant women often crave hot stuff, like curries, hot sauces and chillies. This could be due to the fact that pregnant women experience an increase in body temperature. Hot and spicy food will make you sweat, which will bring down your body’s temperature and make you feel cooler.
- Dairy. Yoghurt and cheese are some common dairy cravings for pregnant women. This could be a sign of calcium deficiency. Dairy is always a healthy choice as long as it’s pasteurised. Dairy products contain a number of important vitamins and minerals, like calcium that are essential for bone health and general well-being. Explore the 10 best sources of calcium for more information.
- Ice. It isn’t really a food but many pregnant women crave ice shavings. This is a good indication that you may be suffering from anaemia, which is an iron deficiency. Eating ice helps relieve inflammation of the mouth and tongue, which is a well-known symptom of anaemia.
Examples of weird pregnancy cravings
Take a look at some of the weird cravings experienced during pregnancy by these women who posted their experiences on Quora:
- “Habenero peppers and oatmeal at four to six months” (Kris)
- “During my first pregnancy I craved mashed potatoes, beans, cheese and anything sour.” (Heather)
- “Ice-cream WITH french fires” (Jazz)
- “Pickles dipped in peanut butter!” (Courtney)
What are non-food cravings?
Some of the really weird food cravings experienced during pregnancy are those that aren’t even food! Some pregnant women develop a craving to eat items other than food, which is a condition known as pica. Items include dirt or crayons. Pica may indicate a mineral deficiency, like zinc or iron, so it’s best to consult your midwife or doctor if these cravings persist. Other bizarre cravings documented include:
- Laundry detergent
- Toilet paper
- Talcum powder
6 Foods to avoid during pregnancy
As long as it’s healthy it doesn’t matter how strange the food craving or combination is. However, some types of food cravings shouldn’t be fulfilled as this could harm both mother and baby. Examples of food to avoid during pregnancy include some of the following:
- Soft cheeses. Cheese like gorgonzola, brie and camembert are made with a mould and could contain listeria. While a listeriosis infection is rare, it’s important to take precautions when you’re pregnant. The good news is that you can enjoy hard cheeses like stilton or cheddar.
- Raw eggs. Avoid food that contains raw eggs, like homemade mayonnaise. Raw eggs have a risk of salmonella poisoning.
- Liver. Food made from liver, like pate, contains a lot of vitamin A, which could harm the baby.
- Certain types of fish. While most fish is very healthy and highly recommended for pregnant women because of the omega-3 fatty acid content, there are some types of fish that should be avoided during pregnancy. This is because the mercury levels are too high and could affect an unborn baby’s nervous system. Fish to avoid include broadbill, marlin and swordfish.
- Shellfish and sushi. Raw, chilled or undercooked shellfish, like prawns or crab, also run the risk of being contaminated with listeria. Opt for vegetarian sushi if you need to satisfy a craving.
- Cold meats. This includes ham, salami and chorizo that you usually find in the deli section of the supermarket. These cured meats also have a risk of containing listeria.
Get health insurance with pregnancy benefits
Ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy by getting the right medical care for you and your unborn baby. Health4Me medical insurance with maternity benefits provides comprehensive care and antenatal testing for expectant mothers. Bloom has partnered with Momentum’s Health4Me programme, which provides affordable health insurance to those who need to watch their budget. Contact one of our consultants if you’re looking for cover during your pregnancy and childbirth.