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Pickles and hot sauce: Your pregnancy cravings explained

What could be causing your weird cravings and what should you do to manage them?

Found yourself shaking your partner awake late at night, directing them to your nearest convenience store to pick up an emergency stash of crisps and tomato sauce to satisfy your sudden, wild hankering? You’re not alone – welcome to the wonderful world of pregnancy cravings!

Research estimates that 50-90% of women will experience some sort of craving for specific foods during their pregnancy. But just because they are common doesn’t make them any less confusing. Why is it that you want to eat sauerkraut straight out of the jar all day long, and oreos and toothpaste suddenly sounds like a delicious flavour combination? Read on to learn about what could be causing your weird cravings and what to do to manage them.

What causes pregnancy cravings?

Experts haven’t figured out exactly why women crave certain foods while pregnant, but there are many theories (hello hormones and lack of sleep!). Here are some common explanations as to why you’re finding yourself sitting in front of the fridge at 2am, elbows deep in a family jar of pickles.

  • Your nutrient and energy demands go up: One theory is that your body is letting you know what it needs. This theory is likely based on the fact many women crave food that they seem to need. For example milk or dairy products that are needed for calcium, or tomatoes and oranges for Vitamin C. However, there is no evidence that cravings are because of a nutrient deficiency, so don’t worry if you’re hankering for some gherkins.
  • Your taste buds are going crazy: Women often find food tastes different when they are pregnant. This is one theory as to why you crave food with very strong flavours (pickles with mustard, anyone?) but can’t stand others like coffee, tea or meat.

READ MORE: Avoiding cold and flu during pregnancy

Should I give in?

It’s generally ok to go ahead and have what you’re craving as long as it’s something that is safe for pregnant women to eat. It’s also important to make sure that giving into your cravings doesn’t stop you from eating a wide variety of nutritious foods throughout the day. And remember, although you’re technically “eating for two”, you shouldn’t take the phrase too literally.

When should I start to worry?

If you are craving things that are really weird like dirt, hair or chalk, you might have a condition called Pica. It is very unusual in countries like Australia, but tends to develop when a pregnant women is deficient in certain nutrients. If you’re suffering from Pica, it’s important that you see your doctor before you act on your cravings, because certain items can be really dangerous for you and your baby.

READ MORE: Midwife, obstetrician or shared care?

How to control pregnancy cravings

Trying to control pregnancy cravings can feel impossible, and in many cases, pregnancy is a hall pass for treating yourself to anything weird and indulgent. That’s why it might be a good idea to try and swap out the food you crave for a healthy alternative. For example try swapping ice-cream for yogurt, and chips with air popped popcorn. Eating regular meals, and healthy, low GI foods like wholegrains, fruits and vegetables will also help you keep those late-night fast food runs to a minimum. Most importantly, make sure you ask for support when you need it from your GP or medical professional.

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