As you move through the various stages of your pregnancy, you may find that like many, you begin to experience cravings, sometimes of the unusual variety. This is another normal part of the changes experienced throughout pregnancy. But when can you expect those cravings to start and stop and what does the experience mean for your body? We’re going to talk about all that and more, so read on now to find out more about pregnancy cravings.
What Are Pregnancy Cravings and What Causes Them?
Pregnancy cravings are a common symptom of pregnancy and are experienced by most pregnant women to some extent. Some women find that they start craving foods that they never even enjoyed eating before. It’s often the case that women start to crave very strange foods and combinations of foods or sometimes even non-food items!
There’s no definitive answer for what causes these cravings. But some believe that the comfort brought by the foods is the main reason, while other theorize that the rapid changes taking place in the body, such as the need to produce more blood or hormonal changes, can cause the cravings to occur.
When Do The Cravings Start?
For most women, pregnancy cravings start very early on, usually in the first trimester. But the peak of their intensity is usually not reached until the second trimester. There’s no set time for when cravings start, however, so it does differ from woman to woman.
Cravings often don’t go away completely until after giving birth, so you can expect to experience them during the third trimester too. However, this is the point at which most women find that their cravings and their intensity start to decline to some extent. Again, the nature of that decline will differ from person to person.
Is there a link between pregnancy cravings and baby gender?
You may have heard that the nature of your pregnancy cravings can offer an insight at your baby’s gender. For example, old wives’ tales suggest that craving salt in pregnancy suggests that you’re carrying a boy whereas sugar cravings in pregnancy suggest that you’re carrying a girl. Unfortunately, these are nothing more than myths and are not supported by scientific evidence.
Common Cravings and Food Aversions
The most common cravings are for carbohydrate rich foods and very sweet foods although some women have been known to crave very strange and unusual things such as sawdust, coal, soil, soap, chalk and paint to name a few!
It’s quite common for women to experience food aversions as well as cravings. For example, many women feel sick if they so much as think about drinking coffee and alcohol or eating meat when they’re pregnant - which isn’t a bad thing!
What can you do about cravings and aversions?
It’s not always easy to deal with cravings and aversions rationally. After all, this is a confusing, emotionally-charged time. It’s worth bearing in mind that by the time you enter the third trimester, cravings and aversions should be more or less out of your system. Until then, here are a few things you can do to keep everything in check:
- Find a distraction: If you can’t shake that food urge then you should do something to take your mind off it. Go for a walk, FaceTime with a friend, open a book, or watch some TV until it passes.
- Choose healthy alternatives: Do your best to be present when faced with cravings. Nutrition is still important, so steer clear of the bad choices if you can. Stock up on healthy alternatives to your favorite cravings and see if they scratch that itch.
- Treat yo’self (occasionally): Of course, where’s the fun in being pregnant if you can’t give in to your food cravings now and again? Just make sure you’re bringing a bit of balance to the party. For example, counteract the Oreos for breakfast with a nice salad for lunch.
Craving non-food items during pregnancy: ‘Pica’
It’s worth noting that the majority of food cravings will not cause you or your baby any harm. However, a very small number of women may find themselves wanting to eat typically inedible substances including soil, chalk and clay. This condition is referred to as ‘Pica’ and it can be a sign that you may have a nutrient deficiency such as iron deficiency anaemia. If you have any abnormal pregnancy cravings, it’s important to talk to your midwife or doctor as it can be treated with medication or supplements.
When to Seek Medical Help
Some women worry about their cravings, but there’s rarely any need to; unless they’re of the non-food variety as mentioned above. Of course, you need to keep your health and diet in check so indulging in every unhealthy craving you have isn’t a good idea. You only really need to consult a doctor if you feel your cravings are becoming extreme or pose a risk to your health or the health of your baby.
Cravings are perfectly normal, even the strange and unexpected ones. There’s no right or wrong, but it’s important to know that you can talk to your doctor if you are experiencing anything you’re worried about or if you simply want to ask some questions.
What is the takeaway for women with pregnancy cravings?
Even if you only want French fries for every meal, be sure to pay attention to how many you’re munching on. Most doctors say that occasionally giving in to high-salt, high-fat and high-carbohydrate cravings isn’t a big deal, especially if the cravings only last a short time. However, it’s important to note that a steady diet of unhealthy foods that are high in fat, sugar, or chemicals can lead to excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes, or other problems that can last beyond the birth of your baby.