By Nico Strydom
The craving some pregnant women have to eat unusual, non-essential or even harmful substances is no myth – it even has a medical term.
The term is pica, but why some women have the urge to eat strange or unusual items is not clear. The medical term is derived from the Latin name for the magpie (Pica Pica), a bird that will eat almost anything.
It is assumed that pica is related to an iron deficiency or bad eating habits. There is no specific test to determine if a pregnant woman has pica but a doctor can perform blood tests as there could be a link to a vitamin deficiency. When pregnant women eat substances that aren’t food, it could influence the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and could cause a deficiency.
The craving for certain foods generally is not harmful, as long as a balanced diet is followed and moderation is kept in mind. Women sometimes yearn for certain foods that they never ate before, or strange food combinations, such as gherkins and ice-cream.
The unusual or even harmful substances that some pregnant women crave, include ice, dust, soil, soap, hair, matches, board chalk, charcoal, toothpaste and ash.
Eating harmful substances can lead to health problems such as lead poisoning or a blockage of the intestines, and toxic ingredients can be to the detriment of mother and baby.
The craving for unusual foods usually is the result of hormonal changes. This causes certain pregnant women to be more sensitive to the aroma of certain foods and could cause them to easily become nauseous. Other pregnant women can perhaps no longer eat their favourite food.
Most important is to not panic should you have a need or craving for unusual or even harmful substances. Talk to your doctor so that it can be ascertained if you perhaps have some or other deficiency.
If it is established that you do not have any deficiency but you still have the craving, you could try to substitute it with something else. Inform your family and friends so that they can help you avoid harmful substances.
Verywell Family: https://www.verywellfamily.com/pica-in-pregnancy-2753051
American Pregnancy Association: https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/unusual-cravings-pica/
The Bump: https://www.thebump.com/a/pica-during-pregnancy
Baby Center: https://www.babycenter.com/404_what-causes-pica-during-pregnancy_1186643.bc