You are about 12 weeks pregnant and suddenly you must have nachos. Lots and lots of nachos. But when you are standing in line for Mexican food, you realize nothing would go better with nachos than a bowl of strawberries and whipped cream.
Watch out: Your pregnancy cravings are officially in full swing.
Here’s a look at why cravings happen during pregnancy and what they mean. We’ll also discuss how long they last and if it’s safe to indulge.
It’s common during pregnancy to crave odd combinations of food or things you’ve never wanted to eat before.
According to research presented in Frontiers in Psychology, about 50 to 90 percent of women have some type of specific food craving during pregnancy. But doctors don’t know exactly why pregnant women get the urge for specific tastes, textures, or flavor combinations.
Your rapidly changing hormones might be to blame. Or cravings might happen because of the extra work your body is doing to quickly produce a lot more blood. It might be as simple as the comfort certain foods bring at a time when your body seems to be different each day.
When Do Cravings Start?
For most women, cravings start in the first trimester, peak during the second trimester, and then start to decline in the third.
Doctors say very few cravings continue after delivery, so you don’t have to worry that you’ll keep eating the same strange things forever. In fact, a lot of women claim to have one craving for a day or two, another craving for a day or two, and so on.
Other women reported that as soon as they gave birth, their desire for spaghetti and meatballs went from all day, every day, to something a little more reasonable.
Food aversions are the opposite of food cravings. They can create some equally unusual feelings. Food cravings and food aversions during pregnancy usually start around the same time.
Interestingly, researchers found that food cravings might not have anything to do with the nausea and vomiting of morning sickness, but avoiding certain foods probably does.
The most rejected food during pregnancy is meat, normally a staple for most women in United States. The sight and smell of raw meat, cooking smells, and the texture of prepared meat can be too much for some pregnant women to stomach.
Research published in The Quarterly Review of Biology found that in cultures where women do not experience much morning sickness, meat is not a regular part of the diet.
So why is meat such a monster for some? Researchers suspect it’s because meat sometimes carries bacteria that can make mother and baby very sick. The body protects them both by making meat an unappetizing option.
What Will I Crave?
Most pregnancy cravings are personal, harmless, and can be kind of funny. Some of the most commonly reported craved foods in the United States are ice cream, fruit and fruit juice, spicy foods, and carbohydrate-heavy foods. Vegetables are often found way down the line.
Here are a few cravings pregnant women reported online:
- chicken quesadillas for every meal, every day, for a week
- french fries from one particular fast food restaurant
- buffalo chicken wings, spicy barbecue sauce, straight fresh chilies
- pickles and pickle juice, olives stuffed with garlic, marinated anchovies
- pasta covered with nearly anything — creamy sauce, sweetened tomato sauce, or just melted cheese
For some, odd combinations of food are most satisfying — that’s the root of the famous joke about pregnant women eating pickles and ice cream.
There’s even an online cookbook that features recipes, both bizarre and beautiful, that have been craved by real pregnant women.
Should I Be Worried?
Some cravings can be dangerous and a sign that you need to see a doctor. If you have a strong desire to eat dirt, soap, or other nonfood items during pregnancy, you may be suffering from pica, a potentially poisonous condition.
While only a small number of women crave alcohol or drugs during pregnancy, the danger to your baby is too great to give in. Talk to your doctor about it honestly so you can get help that will keep both you and your baby safe.
Even if you only want french fries for every meal, be sure to pay attention to how many you are munching on. Most doctors say occasionally giving into high-salt, high-fat, and high-carbohydrate cravings isn’t a big deal, especially if the cravings only last a short time.
But take note: A steady diet of unhealthy foods that are high in fat, sugar, or chemicals can lead to excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes, or other problems that can last beyond the birth of your baby.