Pregnancy cravings: What you need to know

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We’ve all heard stories about pregnant women craving weird stuff like coal or toothpaste, as well as strange combinations of food like gherkins and ice cream. But pregnancy cravings aren’t always weird.

They can vary hugely from woman to woman. Some crave fatty foods like chips and pizza, while others reach for fruit. Some may get cravings for things they didn’t like before they got pregnant, and some may even crave non-food items.

If you find yourself reaching for certain foods more than you did before you got pregnant, chances are you’re experiencing pregnancy cravings.

It can be unnerving when you experience strong cravings, as it can sometimes feel like your body has been taken over and you’re not in control. It’s usually nothing to worry about. We’re here to put your mind at ease and fill you in on everything you need to know when it comes to pregnancy cravings.

When and why do we get pregnancy cravings?

There isn’t a specific time when pregnancy food cravings start. It’s different for every woman. If you do get pregnancy cravings though, they’ll probably start in your first trimester. They might get stronger in your second trimester, and then they should eventually stop in your third trimester.

There are a few theories about why pregnancy can cause our palates to change.

However, experts don’t really know for sure why some pregnant women experience cravings and others may not get any cravings at all.

There are some who say that pregnancy cravings are nature’s way of providing nourishment to the mum-to-be, particularly if they are lacking certain nutrients. While others say they’re driven by hormones and emotions.

Hormones can certainly affect your sensory experience of food, your sense of smell, and your mood, which can all determine the types of food you crave or dislike. There may be some foods that you didn’t like before that you now can’t get enough of.

Equally, there may be some foods that you loved before you got pregnant that you can no longer tolerate. For instance, it’s common for your body to develop an aversion to coffee and alcohol, because these are things that can harm your baby if you have too much of them when pregnant. Foods with strong smells like eggs, onions and garlic are also common aversions during pregnancy.

Pregnancy cravings can also change from day to day. You may find you want peas with everything one day. And the next, you can’t stand the sight of those little green things. Your cravings may also change if you have more than one pregnancy.

Top tips for dealing with pregnancy cravings

It’s important to pay attention to your cravings and indulge in them in moderation – try not to fight them. But also try not to let unhealthy cravings overpower your need for nutritious food.

If you’re eating a healthy and varied diet overall, it’s usually okay to give in to your cravings occasionally – assuming you aren’t craving anything that may harm you or your unborn baby, of course.

Read up on the foods you should avoid while pregnant. And, if you find yourself craving things that aren’t food like soap, coal or soil, speak to your midwife or doctor, as you may have a condition called pica that can be caused by an iron deficiency.

If you’re craving something a little bit naughty, it’s best not to overdo it when it comes to portion control. For instance, it’s probably not a good idea to eat the entire tub of Ben & Jerry’s in one sitting!

Craving sweet treats can sometimes be due to a drop in blood sugar, so eating small, regular meals may help you avoid eating too much sugar.

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it’s true. Skipping breakfast can make your cravings worse, so make sure you fill up first thing and set yourself up for the day to keep those pesky cravings at bay.

Exercise can also help curb those cravings. If you feel yourself reaching for the sharing bag of Doritos, go for a walk or do some yoga to try and distract yourself.

A little of what you fancy

With some exceptions, and bearing in mind your nutritional needs, there’s no harm in giving in to bizarre pregnancy cravings, even if that means sending your partner out on a hunt for edamame beans and peanut butter at 2 am.

Your body is working incredibly hard to grow your little bundle of joy, so treat it to what it fancies.

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you may find your body starts craving meat. It’s a personal choice whether you give into these cravings, but it’s ok to eat meat during your pregnancy and then go back to your usual diet after you give birth. Alternatively, you could try meat alternatives like Quorn or tofu.

In general, your pregnancy should be all about feeling good, keeping your strength up, staying healthy, and nurturing your growing baby. If you’re struggling with eating in any way, or if your cravings are becoming uncontrollable, speak to your doctor or midwife, who’ll be able to help. After all, being pregnant should be an amazing experience that you get to enjoy.

Sandra Cullen Photography – based in Greenwich – specialises in newborn, baby, and maternity photography.

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