I crave for the weirdest things

Dear Doctor,

I am three months pregnant with my first child and I crave for the weirdest things, like the smell of soil after it rains makes me want to eat it.  Is this normal?

Nadia
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Dear Nadia,

Congratulations on your first pregnancy and best wishes for it. It is perfectly normal for a woman to have abnormal food cravings during pregnancy. In fact it is the indication of a normal pregnancy. Many women develop a strong craving for some food items. The craving may sometimes be irresistible for even inedible items like mud, clay, e.t.c, which is known as pica. Some women develop repulsion for the foods which they liked before becoming pregnant.

What causes pica exactly during pregnancy is not known. One theory is that it occurs due to deficiency

In iron and other important minerals. It is said to be the body’s attempt to obtain deficient minerals in any way, from any kind of food. Sometimes pica may be related to some physical or mental illness.

The range of food substances, for which a woman commonly has craving to eat, is sour substances like lemon. It can be hot and spicy foods or very sweet foods. The range of inedible substances, for which one has a craving is very wide. It can range from mud, charcoal, clay, paper, burnt matches, etc.

Most women succumb to this desire of eating both edible and inedible things. But it has implications for a pregnant women’s health. Eating non edible things, hampers with the adequate intake of nutritious substances. It harms the health of both the mother and her unborn baby.

During pregnancy the need for nutrients is increased, particularly of iron and calcium. But due to pica, this need is not fulfilled. Eating inedible things will hamper with the normal digestive process, which can result in dyspepsia and or constipation. It also exposes one to risk of intestinal infections, as many of these things are contaminated and not cleaned as one would clean normal food.

One can overcome this abnormal craving for different kinds of food and non food substances

Try to exert some self control and avoid touching non edible substances. This can be achieved by getting involved in some activity to divert the mind, when craving arises.

Consult a health care provider and take iron, folic acid and calcium supplements. This may help reduce this habit, if it is due to mineral deficiency.

If anemia is present initially, monitor your hemoglobin regularly.

Dr. Rachna   Pande is a specialist in internal medicine. 

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