Pica During Pregnancy: Causes & Treatment

4 min read

Written by Bindu Raichura

Bindu Raichura

Pregnancy is unique. Yes, there are millions of women around the world, pregnant at the same time. However, each pregnancy is a unique journey and every woman experiences this beautiful phase differently. Right from hormonal changes to food cravings, each woman has a different story. What is pica during pregnancy?

While we are familiar with food cravings in pregnancy, are you familiar with pica during pregnancy and pica cravings? This is not as simple as other pregnancy cravings. Most often this affects the healthy progression of pregnancy. Let us understand what is Pica and what it indicates.

In This Article

What is Pica During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy pica is an eating disorder where the woman craves non-food items to eat. This could be due to more than just hormonal fluctuations. Pica could be an indication that there is something off balance in the pregnant woman’s body. While pica is generally classified as a mental illness, it is not restricted to just that. When it comes to pica pregnancy, there is no research that shows the women always had any mental issues.

What Causes Pica During Pregnancy?

While there is no clear answer or understanding as to how pica and pregnancy are related, some studies show it could be due to some deficiencies. Anemia in pregnancy is not unusual and a severe iron deficiency can make pregnant women crave non-food items. It can also be some psychological imbalance that can be caused due to hormonal changes in a pregnant woman.

So, what do women suffering from pica pregnancy crave? Pregnant women can crave a number of things as it differs from woman to woman. Here is a list of the most common items a pregnant woman suffering from pica can crave for:

  • Dirt:

Pregnant women eating dirt can be an alarming sight and cause for concern. A woman eating dirt while pregnant can ingest a number of unwanted components that can cause severe damage to her own stomach, teeth, and the baby’s health.

  • Hair:

Women suffering from pica pregnancy can be seen to pull their own hair and chew on it when they are hungry or idle. Sometimes the women don’t even realize they are chewing on their hair. Though this can be discarded as an unfavorable mannerism, it could be an indication of more serious issues.

  • Burnt Matchsticks:

A burnt matchstick has a distinct smell to it that can attract a pregnant woman. Pregnant women prefer and dislike many different smells during their pregnancy. If you are pregnant and feel more attracted to this burnt smell and want to taste it, you could be suffering from pica pregnancy.

  • Chalk:

Chalk is a very common craving for people suffering from pica.

  • Soaps:

While pregnancy can make you lean more towards certain smells, if you find yourself wanting to take a bite of that yummy smelling soap, you might be suffering from pica pregnancy.

  • Coins:

Coins are hard and cannot be chewed on. However, women suffering from this problem have been reported to bite and chew on coins, causing severe damage to their teeth as well as the digestive tract.

  • Ice Chips:

This is one harmless craving when compared to the items listed above. Though this may not seem concerning, craving to crunch on ice chips all the time may not be a healthy option during pregnancy and will have to be checked by a doctor.

Should You Be Worried?

Yes, this is not something one should ignore. Pica during pregnancy is a warning that something is off-balance in the woman’s body. It is not just what the woman suffering is craving for; it is also how these items affect her health after being ingested. If the reason behind this is a nutrient deficiency, eating non-food items will not only affect the mother-to-be and the unborn baby, but also mean she is not getting the required nutrients for a healthy pregnancy.

On the other hand, if it is due to some mental instability, not helping a pregnant woman overcome her negative or unwanted feelings can have a severe effect on the baby’s mental health.

How Can I Overcome Pica During Pregnancy?

How Can I Overcome Pica During Pregnancy_

Pica pregnancy can be treated by addressing the underlying problems that are causing the woman to eat such items:

  • Deficiency:

If your doctor suspects pica pregnancy, s/he can ask for a blood test to find out if there are any severe nutrition deficiencies. If there is a severe iron or other nutrient deficiency, the doctor might prescribe suitable supplements and observe the effect on you.

  • Mental Illness:

If there is no apparent deficiency, the doctor will next check on your mental state. This can involve a series of psychological tests or meetings with a therapist. They will try to understand if you are aware that you are craving non-food items and how it is affecting you. They might try to understand how you feel once you, eat such items and prescribe treatments to handle those needs.

  • Sensory Needs:

Sensory needs are important yet it is often ignored. When a pregnant woman is in need of munching on something hard or crunchy, non-food items might give her more satisfaction than any food. Once this is understood, the doctor can give a safer substitute to meet the sensory needs in pica pregnancy.

Once your doctor ascertains that you are in fact suffering from pica pregnancy, s/he will prescribe medicines, nutrient supplements, and also dietary changes to get this craving under control. Pica during pregnancy is not unheard of and can definitely be handled with proper medication and guidance. Never ignore such red flags as just another pregnancy craving. Always consult your doctor and get your doubts clarified.

Bindu Raichura,

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