Pica and Pregnancy: Everything You Need to Know

Pregnancy is often met with a range of changes and new sensations to both body and mind. Tummies swell, senses heighten, not to mention what it does to our eating habits. However, while some women crave out of the norm food combinations, such as pickles with ice cream and honey mustard on doughnuts, those expectant mothers who have developed pica disorder experience a temptation for far more unappetising dishes.

What is it?

Pica is the practice of craving and ingesting substances with little or no nutritional value, for at least one month, in adults who are of a reasonable age, where this is considered developmentally inappropriate. While many people are born naturally with the disorder, pica symptoms can also begin to present themselves during the first trimester of pregnancy. Pica can involve cravings for less harmful substances like ice, coffee grounds or baking soda, but typically leaves the sufferer with a temptation to consume common dirt, paper, soap, sand, stones or cigarette butts.

Why does it develop?

There is no concrete evidence as to why those with pica suddenly present with these urges. However, many experts believe the disorder is linked to not getting enough nutrients, including iron and zinc or that people simply desire a specific texture in their mouth.

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Is it dangerous?

The danger in pica, for both mother and child, usually depends on the substance being ingested. For instance in pregnancy, if the craved material is poisonous and then consumed, it could affect both mother and child. Also, if the pregnant mother is substituting a non-nutritive substance for nutrient-rich food, then she could run the risk of becoming malnourished and vitamin deficient, affecting the growth of an unborn child.

If you are concerned that you may have developed pica during your pregnancy the first step is to inform your doctor. In treating pica during pregnancy a doctor will commonly subscribe supplements to help patients manage cravings and balance the supply of minerals and vitamins in the body.

If you want to learn more about pregnancy cravings and what they mean, click here.