Why Do You Get Cravings When Pregnant?

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We all recognize the cliche of the pregnant woman who suddenly devours bizarre food combinations. From pickles and ice cream to anchovies and peanut butter, pregnant women seem to suddenly be drawn to foods that wouldn't have made it onto their radar before pregnancy.

So, why do cravings occur, and do they mean anything?

The Biology Behind Cravings

Cravings are not only reserved for pregnancy.  Many women will have noticed a change in eating patterns throughout their monthly cycle. This might typically manifest as a desire to eat chocolate or carbs in the days before or during your period.

Despite 50 to 90% of women in the USA experiencing cravings during pregnancy, passions are still not fully understood. Several scientific studies have taken place to understand better why cravings might occur.

Research has shown that in pregnancy, food cravings might have several causes. The sudden change in hormone levels, a lack of certain nutrients in the diet, and cultural or psychosocial factors can all give us intense cravings.

Cravings may also be related to the increase in blood volume required to sustain a pregnancy.

More research is required to understand the biology or psychology of cravings fully.

When do Cravings Occur?

Cravings can start as early as week five of pregnancy. However, they tend to peak within the second trimester (week 13 to the end of week 26). 

During the third trimester, cravings often settle. Conversely, some women will have them until the birth of their baby and even into the postpartum period.

What do my Cravings Signify?

Occasionally, a craving might signify a need for a particular mineral or vitamin.

Tales of women craving meat have been said to signify a lack of protein or iron, and craving salt could suggest that your electrolyte levels are low.

However, there is little scientific evidence to back this up in reality.

Rather than worrying about your cravings, it is more important to focus on maintaining a healthy diet that helps you manage your cravings.

Are Cravings Ever a Sign of Illness?

Occasionally in pregnancy, women can crave unusual, non-food items. This may be part of a medical condition known as pica. 

Cravings might include a desire to eat dirt, chalk, soap, or soil. These cravings can occasionally occur as a result of a mineral deficiency. 

If you experience unusual cravings or cravings for non-food items, it is essential to speak to your midwife or doctor for advice.

Final Thoughts

Cravings in pregnancy are common and can range from a strong desire to eat chocolate to consuming more bizarre food combinations. 

Cravings are not fully understood but may be related to rising hormone levels and increased blood volume. 

Occasionally, cravings might be a sign of a vitamin or mineral deficiency. It is essential to discuss this with a healthcare professional if you are concerned.

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