Why do women get pregnancy food cravings? Theories range from the body needing more of a specific nutrient to it simply being down to changing hormones. Then there’s the old wives’ tale that says particular cravings indicate whether you’re having a boy or a girl.
Some women find they suddenly can’t stand a food they’ve previously loved. Others can’t stop eating something they’ve always hated. There are even women who crave non-food items. (More on that later.)
Cravings usually start towards the end of the first trimester – up to week 12 – and can last throughout pregnancy. What you crave can change as your pregnancy progresses; these are a few we’ve come across.
“When I say I craved lemons, I mean I ate the whole fruit – peel, pith and all. I had bags of them in the refrigerator and ate them like apples. The acidity gave me really bad heartburn, but I couldn’t stop. Can’t bear the thought of them now.” – Lisa K, from Yorkshire, UK.
Nothing weird about steak, except the woman in this case had been a committed vegetarian for the previous 12 years. Not only that, she wanted it ‘blue’ – the more blood dripping out of that sirloin, the better.
3Pizza & apple sauce
Yum, pizza. But not usually accompanied by a pot of apple sauce. “It didn’t matter what the topping was – pepperoni, mushroom, barbecue chicken. I just wanted to smother it with apple sauce and eat the lot,” says Carla T, who lives in Montana, US.
4Pickle sandwiches (with the pickle as the bread!)
That might not sound too odd, until you realise that the pickles – usually sliced dill cucumbers – are used as the bread. The filling would be anything you’d normally expect – cheese, ham, tuna. It doesn’t appeal to us, but this one is quite a popular pregnancy food craving.
5Wotsits & strawberry milkshake
My friend Vicky swore this was the most delicious combination on the planet while she was pregnant. (For those outside the UK, Wotsits are a cheesy puffed corn snack – a bit like Cheetos.) She’d buy a multipack from the supermarket, a milkshake from McDonald’s or Burger King, and polish off the lot.
Finely-cut, fermented cabbage doesn’t get my tastebuds tingling at the best of times. Belinda, who lives in the Netherlands, wasn’t a fan either – until she was pregnant. “I couldn’t get enough of it. I’d put it on everything – and I mean everything, from fruit to mashed potatoes. I didn’t like it on its own, though, and now the thought of it makes me feel sick.”
Most of us are ok with mustard as a condiment – on the side with roast beef or ham, for example. Or yes, as a sandwich ingredient. But on its own? Mustard slathered liberally on bread with nothing else? No thanks.
This comes via Natalie, an old schoolfriend, who says her sister craved a particular brand of dog treat biscuits during her pregnancy last year. “She never went anywhere without a handful in her pocket,” recalls Natalie. “We made her check with the manufacturer that they wouldn’t harm her or the baby and apparently it’s quite a common craving!”
One of my personal cravings during my second pregnancy wasn’t for a food – it was a smell. White spirit and shoe polish were my favourites. When I filled my car up at the fuel station, I’d stand so the petrol fumes drifted up my nostrils.
All these things contain alcohol, and my friends joked it was my body’s way of coping without wine. I was a bit worried – inhaling this kind of substance couldn’t be good for my baby. (She was fine.) But I’d also heard of pregnant women craving substances such as sand, clay and chalk.
This is known as ‘pica’ – craving substances with little or no nutritional value. (Pica is Latin for magpie – a bird notorious for eating almost anything.) There’s no agreed cause, although the Journal of American Dietetic Association believes there may be a connection to iron deficiency.