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Pregnancy Cravings: When They Start and What to Do About Them

Suddenly, you’re in desperate need of a pint of ice cream and dill pickles. The funny thing is, these foods have never been your go-tos. Welcome to the world of pregnancy cravings! Read on as Flo unlocks the secrets behind pregnancy cravings and what causes them.

A mom-to-be experiencing pregnancy cravings

When do cravings start during pregnancy?

You’re not too far along in your pregnancy and maybe you haven’t even noticed any weird cravings yet. However, you’d like to know what to expect and when. So when do cravings start during pregnancy?

Typically, pregnancy cravings coincide with the onset of morning sickness, somewhere between the third and eighth week of the first trimester. For most, cravings tend to spike during the second trimester, and decrease as the third trimester progresses.

As unusual as they may seem, pregnancy cravings occur in roughly 50 to 90 percent of pregnant women in the U.S.

Food cravings sometimes show up alongside food aversions, which lead to nausea and/or upset stomach. One of the more common aversions women develop is in response to the sight or smell of cooked or raw meat.

Not surprisingly, such aversions may be based on a primitive instinct for survival. Meat can contain dangerous bacteria that could potentially harm the mother or child. Similarly, pregnancy cravings might also have a deeper, underlying cause.

What causes pregnancy cravings?

Some research has shown that pregnancy cravings arise from hormonal fluctuations. They affect your sense of smell, taste, and appetite, causing you to yearn for strange flavors, textures, and combinations.

Although pregnancy hormones are signaling what your body needs to thrive (e.g., calcium), cravings tend to favor unhealthy food choices. This is why you’re far likelier to reach for a half gallon of rocky road ice cream than a glass of skim milk.

The process of sustaining new life also ramps up your body’s energy requirements. A larger intake of calories will increase blood flow and aid in fetal development.

Lastly, some experts say pregnancy cravings are based on an inherent desire for comfort as your body adjusts to the added physical stress.

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A woman experiencing a common pregnancy craving

Pregnancy cravings can occasionally feel like PMS on steroids. Next, we list the nine most common pregnancy cravings.

1. Sweets

Got a major sweet tooth lately? Pregnancy cravings often zero in on sugary snacks such as chocolate and even fresh fruit. While the latter is loaded with vitamins and nutrients, the former can still make a healthy snack if eaten in moderation. Try to buy dark chocolate, which is lower in sugar and contains heart-friendly flavonoids.

2. Dairy

Most foods found in the dairy case contain both calcium and sugar, making them doubly appealing when you’re pregnant. If you’re feeling guilty about OD’ing on ice cream though, consider switching to an equally satisfying low-calorie frozen yogurt.

3. Starchy carbs

The physical toll that pregnancy takes over the course of 9 months can drain your energy reserves. As a result, popular pregnancy cravings include bread, pasta, potatoes, and other carbs which help fuel your body.

4. Fast food

Does a gooey slice of pizza or Chinese takeout sound especially good right now? Some believe such common pregnancy cravings are just your body’s way of demanding extra sodium and calories. Do your best to resist these urges and reach for smarter options.

5. Spicy foods

Cravings for hot chilis, for example, are thought to be a natural mechanism your body uses to cool itself down through the process of sweating. As tempting as they are, spicy foods should really be avoided since they’re known to cause heartburn and upset stomach.

6. Pickles

If ever there was a common pregnancy craving, pickles are it. Similar to fast food, pickles provide the high sodium content pregnant women love. They also deliver certain health benefits by alleviating muscle cramps and reducing your chances for diabetes.

7. Red meat

Unlike those who experience a strong aversion to it, some pregnant women have intense cravings for red meat. Hormone fluctuations and low iron levels might be to blame. While it’s usually safe to consume red meat in moderation, it’s wise to check with your doctor first.

8. Peanut butter

Your heightened sense of taste and smell could be responsible for this particular pregnancy craving. Fight the urge to grab a spoon and finish the entire jar sitting in your cupboard. Instead, exercise portion control and spread it on wheat toast or your favorite fruit. This way, you’ll be able to check more than one craving off your list!

9. Pica

Pica is a condition, possibly caused by an iron deficiency, which creates cravings for non-food items, such as burnt matches, dirt, clay, or ice. If you find yourself drawn to dangerous or toxic substances, consult your doctor. 

How to deal with pregnancy cravings

Your pregnancy cravings probably won’t let up until your fourth month. So in the meantime, what’s the best way to deal with them?

  • Stock up on healthier options like dark chocolate, fruit, milk, and yogurt. The easiest way to avoid junk food is by keeping it out of the house.
  • Steer clear of foods that are not recommended during pregnancy. This includes undercooked or raw eggs, alcohol, certain types of meat, fish with high mercury levels, and unpasteurized dairy.
  • Practice moderation. Don’t be afraid to indulge in common pregnancy cravings, such as ice cream, as long as you know where to draw the line. After all, excess sugar can have major health consequences.
  • Find a healthy substitute for naughty food cravings. Consider taking a      leisurely stroll outside or calling a friend.
  • Eat frequently (once every few hours) to stabilize your blood sugar levels and curb cravings before they happen.
  • Focus on good nutrition during pregnancy, but allow yourself a little wiggle room. Pregnancy can be difficult and it’s OK to treat yourself once in a while.

Weird pregnancy cravings: when to contact your doctor

If your morning sickness or food aversions become severe, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss treatment options. Also, seek medical advice if you suspect you may have the pica condition.

Overall, pregnancy cravings are an inevitable part of pregnancy and shouldn’t be cause for concern. Simply be aware of your nutritional intake to ensure that you and your baby are getting the most out of your diet.

https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/when-do-cravings-start

https://www.care.com/c/stories/15363/what-foods-do-women-crave-during-pregnancy-an/en-au/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4172095/

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