From pickles to ice cream, from fast food to sour candies, pregnancy cravings are all over the place! When do these cravings start, and what do they tell women about their pregnancies? Even women with the best intentions of living a healthy lifestyle and eating a balanced diet full of organic fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein may end up throwing that plan out the window once the cravings and aversions kick in.
Food cravings (and the opposite, food aversions) begin around week 5-6 of pregnancy and occur well into the second trimester.
Some researchers believe that cravings are based on nutrient deficiencies in pregnant women. Craving a certain food might indicate that a woman needs more of a certain vitamin in her diet. For instance, a woman craving fries and potato chips might be lacking sodium. However, this might not be the only cause of cravings, because most women eat a pretty balanced diet and are encouraged to take prenatal vitamins daily throughout the pregnancy, making nutrient deficiencies more rare.
Food cravings, especially cravings for comfort foods, might occur because of the extra work your body is doing during pregnancy. Pregnancy can be a stressful time, and turning to comfort foods like bread, pasta, and desserts can be a way of dealing with anxiety.
“Junk food” is a fairly universal craving in early pregnancy.
Many pregnant women crave chips, fast food, fried food, or candy in early pregnancy. Craving unhealthy food is a common experience, although some women may crave certain fruits or vegetables. Surging hormones, especially during early pregnancy, can cause a sudden spike in appetite. Furthermore, pregnancy causes women to have a heightened sense of smell, which is why cravings and aversions might be extreme.
Don’t worry too much if your cravings tend to be more “junk food” than healthy food. Most foods will not harm your developing baby, and it’s fine to indulge every once in a while! Try to maintain a balanced diet overall by making sure you eat enough calories each day and getting enough produce, whole grains, carbohydrates, and protein in your diet.
Can pregnancy cravings become dangerous?
Pregnancy cravings can become dangerous in two ways. First, indulging every single craving for fatty, processed foods can lead to excessive weight gain during pregnancy, which can lead to problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, birth complications, and health issues for the baby. Second, cravings for certain non-food items such as chalk, sand, or clay can be indicative of a condition called pica, which needs to be treated by a medical professional. If you find yourself snacking on ice, you may also have an iron deficiency. However, for the most part, it is fine for pregnant women to indulge their cravings as part of an overall balanced diet.
Here are the most common pregnancy cravings:
And here are some common pregnancy aversions:
Food aversions might be related to morning sickness and nausea during early pregnancy. Since a pregnant woman’s senses are heightened, foods with a certain taste or texture can suddenly become unappealing. Food aversions might also be a protective mechanism, causing a pregnant woman to be repulsed by foods that might be dangerous to her or her developing baby, such as certain fish, lunch meat, coffee and tea (too much caffeine), or alcohol.
If your food aversions are very strong, and you experience gagging or vomiting on a regular basis, your food options might be limited. Try your best to maintain a balanced diet, but if you can’t stomach anything, try to find some alternatives to fatty processed foods or fast food. If you can only stomach sweets, try an all-fruit popsicle, a smoothie, or a yogurt parfait. If you can only eat carbs, try a slice or two of whole wheat toast with peanut butter or saltine crackers. Always make sure to stay hydrated, and if you can’t even stomach water, be sure to see a healthcare professional right away.
The bottom line: Pregnancy cravings and aversions can be silly, entertaining, indulgent, and frustrating. Let yourself give in to the cravings every now and then, and try to eat an overall balanced diet. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy can help the process go smoother and can help keep you and baby safe. And if you’ve eaten way too much ice cream today, be sure to balance it out with some fruits, vegetables, and protein tomorrow.
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.