What Causes Cravings?
About 50 to 90 percent of pregnant women crave specific foods, notes the United States National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. However, experts do not know why some pregnant women crave foods with specific taste, texture, color or flavor. Generally, cravings during pregnancy are caused by hormonal and physical changes caused by the development of the fetus.
Food cravings and aversions start during the first trimester due to the first wave of hormones entering the bloodstream. Cravings may be early signs of pregnancy. They should not be cause for alarm unless the cravings are for non-food items like dirt. The cravings usually disappear by the fourth month of pregnancy.
Sometimes, the body craves for what it needs and repulses foods that are not very helpful. However, this theory does not explain an aversion to healthy foods. Food aversions during pregnancy may affect the diet of pregnant women. Therefore, pregnant women with strong food cravings and aversions to find healthy substitutes for repulsed foods, the Food Insight advises. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to control the cravings and aversions.
NPR provides the following tips for controlling food cravings during pregnancy:
- Eat in moderation to maintain a balanced diet
- Create distractions by engaging in activities, such as walking and reading
- Give in to the cravings but eat healthy foods later to compensate
- Consult a doctor to provide solutions for unhealthy cravings as these cravings are often caused by nutrient deficiencies
- Maintain a healthy balanced diet and have enough exercise
Foods to Avoid
Although cravings can be quite strong during pregnancy, expectant women need to avoid eating excessive amounts of unhealthy foods, such as French fries, chips, cakes and chocolates, advises the Food Safety Organization. Such foods should be eaten in moderation. Other items to avoid include:
- Unclean or unwashed raw fruits and vegetables
- Raw meat, eggs and seafood
- Unpasteurized milk
- Herbal tea
- Peanuts, due to possible allergic reaction
Cravings are at their peak during the second trimester and decline in the third trimester. However, some women may experience cravings even after delivery.
Food aversions are the opposite of food cravings. Many pregnant women experience aversion toward meat, which is one of the most popular foods in the U.S., notes Healthline. Meat exacerbates morning sickness.
How Cravings Affect Diet
Some of the most common cravings during pregnancy include cravings for ice cream, citrus fruits, spicy foods and high-carbohydrate foods, according to Parents Magazine. Some women crave certain drugs during pregnancy, which may be harmful to the fetus. These women are advised to seek medical advice to help them deal with the dangerous cravings. Cravings for salt, fat and carbohydrates are not dangerous as long as it is a short-term craving only. However, excessive consumption of fats, sugar and chemicals may cause complications during or after childbirth, notes the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Despite the fact that pregnant women experience cravings, it is important that they maintain a balanced diet because the developing fetus is entirely dependent on the mother for its nutritional needs. Pregnant women on a balanced diet often experience fewer complications with the development of their babies in the womb.