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Pregnancy Cravings Out of Hand Could Be Pica

Updated on September 27, 2016
Getting the right balance of all of the food groups is ideal when expecting. Anything outside of these is not acceptable.
Getting the right balance of all of the food groups is ideal when expecting. Anything outside of these is not acceptable. | Source

Pregnancy creates all manner of distasteful side effects. There are new and ever changes going on inside of the body. This is one which is rarely spoken of, but

Pregnancy brings with it all sorts of changes for the body. Along with swollen ankles a number of other physical changes are taking place. Countless women have all manner of negative physical side effects experienced during such a joyful time in life. One of the most dangerous has been identified as a condition termed pica.

The average food cravings

A running joke for pregnancy has always been the yearnings which strike a person when it comes to something to eat. Everyone is different. While some dream of salty foodstuffs like potato chips or peanuts, others feel a need for sweets. The sweet tooth looks for chocolate cake or apple pie.These are examples of the normal foods desired in connection with an individual expected to deliver a baby after nine months of pregnancy. Pica puts a whole new spin on the definition of pregnancy cravings.

A pica encounter displays a wish for something abnormal. Things never imagined seen on a plate or in a bowl eaten with a fork or spoon. For instance, imagine a cotton ball as a tasty afternoon treat. It sounds far fetched, but it is an identified medical condition which has been documented as effecting millions of people.

What is pica?

Pica is explained as a disorder where pregnant women crave nonfood items. These include unnatural desires to eat things such as chalk, dirt or even the butts of smoked cigarettes. This insatiable urge to consume these items which are harmful for mom and an unborn baby is referred to as pica.

The name itself is derived from the Latin when translated means magpie. A magpie is a bird with a number of curious eating habits.The symptoms of the pica illness are similar in nature. Eating for the sufferer is curious for an average expectant mommy. It is not the normal circumstance to expect to have a piece of chalk as a midnight snack.

The complaint is defined as a mental illness

The disorder is recognized by the mental health community and listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Ailments of the mind are cured though different means compared with those of the body. This unique condition is not an exception, but is an anomaly. It is classified as a mental health disorder, but is nearly always found in persons who are pregnant. This makes for a powerful mind and body connection with the disease.

It nearly always goes away after the pregnancy is over. The key is discovering it exists and treating eat before any harm is done. This makes treatment vary as well. Diagnosing is even a little more taxing..

Nearly all physicians who treat a patient admit to using a time frame of at least a month of someone having a conscious consideration to act on pica's desires deserves medical attention. Thinking of an action and acting on it are never the same. However, the more the thought remains in the mind of an individual the more likely the chance to act upon it.

It is dangerous in both instances when it comes to something this potentially harmful. Ingestion of most, if not all of the material in these fantasies is a cause of death in nearly every case. The death blow falls to mom or baby, even both in a number of circumstances.

What do these women eat?

The most common forms of pica are usually for dirt or soil, ice, starch and clay. Though, there are cases where other products are wished for just as persistent. Think of drywall or even hair. It sounds horrible, but it is true. The most common items eaten by pregnant women sufferers overall have been starch and clay. Both are harmful to both mommy and baby.

Where are cases located?

Even with pregnant women all over the world suffering from this disorder documented cases are more common in South Africa, Jamaica and Australia. How rampant it is in America is really not known. Pregnant women are not very forthcoming with these types of cravings and the cases go relatively unreported due to fear of being embarrassed or ridiculed.

It is against medical laws and legislation for a doctor or hospital to report any cases in all 50 state. This makes the data difficult to come by. Though, the illness has existed for more than a few generations.

Why does it occur?

There are mixed beliefs for the “why “of it. Experts believe it is chiefly related to the body missing out on some sort of mineral or material. This mineral is found inside of the item being craved. There is a heightened sense of it with pregnant women. The five senses distinguish it from other resources in strange places. For instance, mercury is located inside of fish as well as a thermometer.

Others believe in a link with an oral fixation as a result of high levels of stress. Still others have proffered it takes place when there is an absence of a certain vitamin within a pregnant woman’s bod. The missing item is only put back inside the body by eating these particular non-foodstuffs. The most common vitamin or mineral deficiency many point toward is iron.

Several different reports have even suggested iron deficiency in pregnant women has been documented. There is a correlation between the two based on more than one study which has shown women that have suffered from pica displayed an iron deficiency. Although it is difficult to say if iron deficiency was a cause or a result of the illness.


Complications are seen specifically in a patient’s bowel or intestines. Because there is ingestion of nonfood, the body is unable to digest the material eaten.The bowel and intestine is where food goes normally and these items follow the same route with a very different result.

Pregnant patients have been known to experience a bowel obstruction at the worse and constipation at the least for side effects or complications of the ailment. Others are usually mental health issues aside from pica. Along with craving things which are bad for mom and baby depression or other mood disorders rear an ugly head.

Any mental health disorder is best dealt with accordingly by a mental health professional equipped to map out certain therapies or behavior to help with the disorder. This includes cognitive therapies and other forms of mental health treatments or services. A medical doctor is more than adequate enough to help put a patient in touch with a mental health provider able to help.


Pica characteristically subsides with the birth of the baby. For some women it is only present during a specified time of pregnancy such as the first or last trimester. There is never any seen during the second trimester or other times in life outside of being with child.

Patients need the strength to seek help

Countless people never dreamed there was a condition which caused this sort of issue in connection with foodstuffs.
Countless people never dreamed there was a condition which caused this sort of issue in connection with foodstuffs.

New dads are the best kinds of help

Sometimes the best indicators of an issue are expectant fathers. These caregivers are familiar with mom and baby. There is an intimacy shared which makes it possible for some potentially private or awkward moments to become turning points in saving lives. Being embarrassed to tell a stranger answering a phone why an appointment is needed with the OBGyn and sharing an explanation with the father of the baby are two very different circumstances.

In conclusion

Pica is a condition if left untreated is potentially life threatening for mom and or baby. Therefore, see a medical professional if there is a suspicion the condition is present. Most docs will run a series of lab tests to verify there is nothing else wrong before treating it.

Since it typically ends with delivery, there is no follow up after pregnancy ends. Some women admit to having it with one child and not another. Since the specific cause is unknown at this time so are a lot of the variables which contribute to it.

A doctor speaks out about how to work with pica syndrome


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    • jshafer profile image

      jshafer 6 years ago

      Luckily, the only things I craved was ice cream with banana peppers. Sounds gross now tho...

    • smcopywrite profile image

      smcopywrite 6 years ago from all over the web

      your welcome. i believe that pica is more common than many people realize. many women will craze items, but never act upon that craving. i hope your friend gets the help she needs.

    • rayechan profile image

      rayechan 6 years ago from Missouri

      I know a young girl who's about as far along as I am and she suffers from pica. She eats chalk, drywall and several other non-foods and when she told her doctor, she was ordered to get blood work done to check if she was low on something. Instead of doing that, she ignored her doctor and continues to eat those nonfood items.

      Something like this should be made more aware of by doctors. Pregnant women don't always realize that there's something wrong when they crave something weird like nonfood and continue on their way.

      Thank you for writing this article. ^^