Are Food Cravings Really as Extreme as Those Depicted on TV?
The short answer – they can be.
Pregnancies are like snowflakes. Every one is different. Not every mama-to-be develops an insatiable urge to devour dill pickles and ice cream. But, some do. A woman may want to eat only cucumbers and peanut butter with her first child. That same woman may crave ripe oranges and citrus flavors with baby number two. Cravings may even change throughout your pregnancy. You may hanker for hamburgers one day and brownies the next.
One certainty is that when a craving hits, it’s powerful! Do not underestimate a pregnant woman with an unfulfilled craving.
Navigating the unpredictable and confusing world of pregnancy cravings can be extremely difficult. Consider this a guide for anyone wondering what pregnancy cravings are all about. Are they really an all-encompassing desire that pregnant women will stop at nothing to fulfill?
What causes Weird Pregnancy Cravings?
Most expectant mothers will encounter some change to the way their brain desires and reacts to certain foods. Researchers estimate as many as 90 percent of pregnant women experience cravings.
Talk to any woman who’s had a baby, she’ll more than likely tell you an almost unbelievable story about a weird pregnancy craving that can’t be real.
Combinations like sweet and salty, or sour and spicy can invade a previously logical thinking woman’s brain faster than you can say “peanut butter on pizza”. Have you ever dreamt of Fig Newton cookies? Gone to three stores to find them and then cried in the car on the way home because you were so overjoyed? I definitely have. I’ve also gulped down a glass of orange juice every morning for nine months and went into full panic mode when the urge for buffalo chicken wings struck in the wee hours of the morning.
My sister-in-law couldn’t live without cinnamon-raisin toast and Cheese Whiz. It was one of the first signs that tipped her off to her pregnancy. Curious cravings can be a big indicator that it’s time to take a test. Heightened senses in general are a sign. I remember lying in bed and I could smell the water coming out of my humidifier. It was the purest smelling mist that I had never previously taken notice of. Unknowingly, I was in the early weeks of pregnancy. Another mama couldn’t resist the urge to curl up in bed with a box of fruit snacks. She quickly developed a ‘box a day habit’ and nothing was going to slow her down.
Thank a lot, Hormones!
Hormones can primarily be blamed for these ravenous tendencies. Pregnancy causes our hormones to spike and decline at certain times. It even triggers our bodies to create brand new hormones that we’ve never processed before. Cravings and aversions typically start in the first trimester and peak in the second, but can occur at any point in the pregnancy. Our heightened sense of smell and taste are key contributing factors.
I remember having fierce cravings when I was pregnant with my first daughter. I vividly recall breaking down in tears because my husband brought home raspberry Pop-Tarts instead of strawberry ones. I was devastated and didn’t fully recover until I got the correct flavored toaster pastry.
With baby girl number two, I don’t remember having any noticeable cravings other than I enjoyed strawberry milkshakes from McDonalds. It wasn’t something that I needed to have, but when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes in the third trimester, I missed having one. My darling husband completely redeemed himself from the Pop-Tart incident of 2017 and brought me one as soon as the nurse okayed it.
Aversions Are Real
Repulsions are another very normal and very confusing part of pregnancy. Just as a desire to eat every salty snack in the house may signal to a woman that she’s expecting, a sudden aversion or negative response to a food can have the same effect.
About six weeks into my first pregnancy I noticed I could no longer enjoy my two morning staples. Every morning I would pour coffee into a travel mug, grab a banana and head off to work. Suddenly the smell of coffee would cause me to immediately feel nauseous. For the first three months of this pregnancy, coffee was no longer allowed in the house. Bananas were also banned. The aversion passed in the second trimester and returned briefly while in labor. With my second child, this particular aversion never appeared. Pregnancy is weird.
Pregnancy cravings and aversions are mostly harmless. But there are times when they can be cause for concern. Pregnancy induced Pica is a condition that causes women to crave things that aren’t food. If you’re suddenly thirsting for chalk or metal, this can be a sign of something more serious. Book an appointment with your healthcare provider to make sure you don’t have a deficiency or other complication.
Moderation is Key
As much as you may be tempted to give into every craving and embrace the “eating for two” lifestyle, it’s important to remember your health and the health of your little one. Your body is doing incredible things and needs all of the nutrients – not just sugar and carbs, unfortunately. A high calorie diet may put you at a higher risk of developing complications such as gestational diabetes, pre-term labor or high birth weight.
Finding ways to conquer cravings is a tough task. Unfortunately, it’s not the healthiest option to eat burgers and ice cream every day – even if “the baby wants it.” Don’t deprive yourself, but be aware of what you’re putting into your body. Although it may feel like forever, pregnancy is only for a short time. Remember the golden rule: everything in moderation. This rule still applies when baby is kicking from the inside and demanding curly fries!
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