Understanding Pica: Unusual Pregnancy Cravings & What Moms-to-Be Need to Know by Dr. Shayna Mancuso
The body undergoes so many critical changes during pregnancy and new food cravings are just one of those many changes. I have had patients crave eggs or fruit, while others must have peanut butter and chocolate at least once a day! However, some women have a very strong urge to ingest non-food items such as chalk or soil. This practice of craving and purposefully consuming nonfood items is known as pica.
What is pica? Pica disorder was first described by Hippocrates in 400 B.C. Pica in pregnancy usually develops in the first trimester. Women will crave substances such as coffee grounds, baking soda, dirt, soap, ice, ash, baby powder or erasers. Pica may, in fact, be accepted and encouraged in some cultures.
Why do some women develop pica? We do not know exactly why these craving occur, but one theory exists that it may develop from a zinc or iron deficiency in the mother or the mother strongly desires a certain texture in her mouth.
What are the dangers of pica? The dangers of pica for Mom and Baby depends on the amount and type of substance consumed.
Effects on Baby may include:
- low birth weight
- exposure to harmful chemicals
Effects on Mom may include:
- nutrient or electrolyte deficiencies
- intestinal obstruction
- parasite infections
- severe nausea and vomiting
What’s the treatment for pica? First and foremost, it is very important to not feel ashamed and let your midwife or doctor know if you think you may have developed pica. They may want to check for any potential vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Your health-care provider also will provide essential emotional support and discuss in detail the potential risks associated with pica.
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