During pregnancy, some women develop strong and unusual desires for certain foods or flavours.
Pregnancy cravings are not fully understood, but they are a common and intriguing phenomenon that many women experience during pregnancy.
Expectant mothers may experience intense cravings, driving them to actively seek and consume foods they previously ignored.
While the exact causes of pregnancy cravings are uncertain. These cravings differ among individuals and can result from hormonal changes, nutritional requirements, psychological factors, cultural influences, or a combination of these elements.
Causes of Pregnancy Cravings
1. Hormonal changes during pregnancy
Pregnancy is a time of significant hormonal fluctuations, which can influence a woman’s sense of taste and smell. Hormones like estrogen and progesterone can impact the way certain foods taste and lead to cravings for specific flavours or textures.
2. Nutritional needs and deficiencies
Some experts suggest that pregnancy cravings may be the body’s way of signaling a need for certain nutrients. For example, cravings for red meat might arise from a need for iron, while a desire for citrus fruits could indicate a need for vitamin C.
3. Psychological and emotional factors
Pregnancy is a time of tremendous physical and emotional changes. Some women may turn to food as a source of comfort or to alleviate stress and anxiety. Cravings for specific foods could be associated with particular emotional connections or memories.
4. Cultural and societal influences:
Cultural and societal factors can also contribute to pregnancy cravings. For example, if a woman was raised with certain foods linked to celebrations or positive events, she might have a higher likelihood of craving those foods during pregnancy.
Common Pregnancy Cravings
While these cravings vary among individuals, here are some common pregnancy cravings reported by women:
- Spicy and hot foods: Some cuisine is known for its flavourful and spicy dishes. Some pregnant women in Nigeria, for example, crave spicy foods like pepper soup, jollof rice, or suya, which is a popular street food consisting of grilled spiced meat.
- Fruits: Fruits are often craved during pregnancy. Common cravings include watermelon, oranges, pineapples, mangoes, and pawpaw (papaya). These fruits are not only refreshing but also provide essential vitamins and nutrients.
- Cravings for traditional snacks: Pregnant women often crave traditional snacks like a deep-fried doughnut-like treat or fried bean cakes. These snacks are readily available and enjoyed throughout.
- Bread and spreads: Some women crave bread during pregnancy, often paired with spreads like peanut butter, chocolate spread, jams, or Mayonnaise.
- Sweet cravings: Many pregnant women have a strong desire for sweet foods like ice cream, cakes, or cookies. This may be due to hormonal changes or a need for quick energy.
- Salty or savory cravings: Cravings for salty snacks like chips or salty snacks are prevalent among pregnant women. Some women may also develop a taste for savory foods like pizza or fried chicken.
- Sour or tangy cravings: Cravings for sour or tangy flavors, such as citrus fruits or sour candies, are also reported by some pregnant women.
Some women experience cravings for unusual combinations of foods, such as:
- Eating soil, clay, or chalk: One of the more unusual cravings, known as “geophagy,” involves pregnant women intensely desiring to consume these substances. This phenomenon has global recognition and has also been reported among pregnant women in Nigeria.
- Ice or freezer water: Some women develop a strong craving for consuming ice or freezer water during pregnancy, even in large quantities. This craving, known as “pagophagia,” could be driven by a desire for cold sensations or hydration.
- Unripe fruits: While most people prefer ripe fruits for their sweetness, some pregnant women develop cravings for unripe or sour fruits such as unripe mangoes or guavas. This craving could stem from the tanginess or distinctive taste that unripe fruits offer.
- Non-food items: Occasionally, some pregnant women may experience “pica“. a condition characterised by an appetite for non-food items. Reported cravings for substances like chalk, laundry starch, or even soap indicate the potential dangers of pica, underscoring the importance of seeking assistance from healthcare professionals.
- Bitter and astringent flavours: Some pregnant women develop cravings for bitter or astringent flavours, such as bitter-leaf soup or drinks made from bitter herbs. These flavors might be chosen based on their perceived health benefits or cultural beliefs linked to their consumption.
These unique cravings can be puzzling but are quite common during pregnancy. If experiencing cravings that seem unusual or potentially harmful, it is always best to consult a healthcare professional for guidance and support.
Impact of Pregnancy Cravings
The impact of pregnancy cravings can vary depending on how they are managed. While occasional indulgence in cravings is typically harmless, excessive consumption of certain foods can have consequences:
- Nutritional imbalances: can occur when consistent satisfaction of cravings with unhealthy or nutrient-poor foods leads to a less balanced diet and the potential for nutrient deficiencies.
- Weight gain: Frequent indulgence in high-calorie foods driven by cravings can contribute to excessive weight gain during pregnancy. This weight gain could pose risks for both the mother and baby.
- Dietary restrictions: Some cravings may not align with dietary restrictions due to underlying health conditions. It is crucial for expectant mothers, in these situations, to consult with their healthcare providers and find alternative ways to fulfill their cravings within the boundaries of their dietary needs.
Pregnancy cravings are a fascinating and normal aspect of pregnancy. While we don’t fully comprehend the exact reasons for these cravings, experts believe that hormonal shifts, nutritional needs, psychological elements, and cultural influences contribute to their emergence.
Remember that these cravings vary greatly among individuals and pregnancies. While the examples mentioned are common cravings, women may experience unique and unusual cravings specific to their pregnancy journey.
It is important for expectant mothers to listen to their bodies but also make mindful and healthy choices when fulfilling their cravings. By maintaining a balanced diet and seeking healthier alternatives when possible, women can satisfy their cravings while promoting the overall well-being of themselves and their growing baby.