You are around 10 weeks pregnant and suddenly you have an intense craving for pickles, so much so that you simply have to eat them out of the jar at regular intervals throughout the day!
These cravings are common during pregnancy – although not all women experience them – and they are thought to be due to a combination of factors, including changing hormones, comfort-seeking, or a nutrient deficiency of some kind.
While there is no specific time when cravings begin, for many pregnant women these appetites often creep in during the first trimester, peak during the second, and start to taper off in the third, with very few cravings continuing after baby is born. Some women report only having certain cravings for a short period of time during their pregnancy, and some report no cravings at all.
Commonly reported cravings include sweets, fruit, salty snacks, beige food, and fast food, with some women experiencing wants for combinations of food that would usually be considered strange, such as cheese and chocolate, pickles and ice cream, or ketchup with absolutely everything!
While most cravings are harmless and temporary, others can be potentially dangerous if consumed, with some women reporting a desire to eat inedible items – a condition known as pica – such as soap, laundry detergent, or chalk. You should talk to your GP or midwife about these cravings if you experience them as they may be due to a nutrient deficiency and can result in health problems if acted upon.
If you find yourself consuming a lot of foods that are high in sugar or fat over a lengthy period, this can increase your risk of developing conditions such as gestational diabetes or excessive weight gain, which can lead to further complications and should be discussed with your midwife.
What about aversions?
In contrast to cravings, aversions cause pregnant women to experience a dislike or even a disgust towards certain foods or smells, and often occur at around the same time as cravings and morning sickness.
A common aversion is towards meat, or specifically raw meat, with a lot of women reporting that they cannot prepare or stand the smell of meat cooking in the first trimester. The reason for this may be that uncooked meat can carry bacteria which could make the mother sick.
While aversions can develop for any number of things, other common examples include a repulsion towards even the thought of tea, coffee, cigarette smoke, or alcohol. This is said to be the body’s way of telling you what you should be avoiding altogether or decreasing your consumption of.
A balanced diet is ideal during pregnancy but with certain cravings and aversions kicking in, that can sometimes be tricky, particularly when nausea and morning sickness peak. Rest assured that most cravings and aversions are temporary and remember to take your prenatal vitamins daily to ensure you are topping up those all-important nutrient levels.
Jen Dowding, Baby massage and baby yoga instructor, Basking Babies Laindon & Orsett