How to deal with pregnancy cravings

Pregnant women often develop strange food cravings, especially for pickles and other salty foods. In this instance, the craving reflects a physical need. During pregnancy, a woman's volume of blood doubles, and as a result she needs extra sodium to maintain a proper fluid balance. Normally, adding salt to food supplies the necessary sodium. Here are some tips for dealing with cravings while pregnant.

How to deal with pregnancy cravings

Craving during pregnancy

As for cravings, there's usually no harm in satisfying them in moderation, provided overall nutritional needs are met. But if the cravings are for bizarre indigestible items like laundry starch, soil, clay and ice, it constitutes pica and may reflect a serious medical or psychological problem, and requires the attention of professionals.

  • A craving for ice is a common sign of iron deficiency; conversely, the deficiency can be caused by eating starch, clay and other substances that bind to iron and prevent its absorption. Taking iron supplements to counter the deficiency usually puts an end to the craving.
  • Cravings are also influenced by cultural traditions, some of which are still practiced in places like the rural American South or among recent immigrants. For example, some folk healers urge pregnant women to eat clay for an easier delivery; others maintain that consumption of soil provides needed iron. Such practices, however, are dangerous for both the mother and her fetus.

Foods to eat

  • Low-fat starchy foods to satisfy a carbo­hydrate craving.
  • High-fibre foods to avoid feeling hungry.

Foods to limit

  • Foods you might crave, especially sweets, chocolates and salty items.

Foods to avoid

  • Becoming overly hungry, which can lead to overindulgence.

Pica

For unexplained reasons, some people, especially children, develop intense cravings for non-food items, such as paint chips, soil, clay or laundry starch. This phenomenon is known as pica, which comes from the Latin term for magpie — a bird that will eat almost anything.

  • Pica can have serious consequences, including lead poisoning, intestinal obstruction, worm infestations and even death if poisonous substances are consumed.
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