Pickles and pregnancy

Moms-to-be sometimes crave the strangest things. It’s typically harmless—as long as it’s food.
That little person growing inside you may have you reaching for pickles before all is said and done. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Pickles and ice cream, anyone?

Most pregnant women will have cravings during their pregnancy, some more unique than others.

Where one will crave fruit, another will long for salty foods or a hot, spicy Mexican dish. (That’s where pickles and ice cream come in, although honestly I’ve only met a few moms who eat these together.)

We don’t know a lot about cravings in pregnancy—not even why they occur. Some think it’s the changing hormones that cause this. We all know there are plenty of hormonal changes going on during pregnancy.

There’s a question I often ask during the pregnancy classes I teach: “What cravings do you have?”

So far, my favorite response has been, “Ice cream with ketchup.”

What do you think? Want to run out and try it? I’ll pass.

We’ve had several moms who like to drink pickle juice. Could it be the salt or the vinegar? If you don’t want to try ice cream and ketchup, how about pickle-juice popsicles? That’s another big pregnancy hit.

Another favorite is the mom who figured out she became pregnant when she started craving a McDonald’s Big Mac. Sound strange? She didn’t normally like them, but she has craved them in two pregnancies. When she again started craving a Big Mac, she knew it was time to take a pregnancy test.

We know women also sometimes have food aversions when they’re pregnant. I’ve seen expectant moms averse to eggs or the smell of meat cooking.

Most food aversions are common in the first trimester, although they can happen in all phases of pregnancy. There is nothing you should do but avoid what bothers you.

Sometimes food likes and dislikes will change because of pregnancy. I have a sister-in-law who didn’t like chocolate, but then had some during pregnancy and now really likes it.

Although they may be strange, odd food combinations are OK.

Pica

Your OB provider will definitely need to know if you are craving things to eat that are not food.

This is called pica, a disorder in which a person craves substances that have little or no value, such as chalk or dirt. According to americanpregnancy.org, pica is Latin for magpie, a bird notorious for eating almost anything.

In nursing school, we learned about women who have craved lead chips, such as those found in paint, on walls, or in the sand.

This is one of the topics we talk about in our early pregnancy session at Spectrum Health Gerber Hospital.

In the three years I’ve been facilitating this class, I’ve had three moms tell me they craved—and were eating—non-food items.

Two of them craved chalk, and one of these told me how she had to hide her children’s chalk so she wouldn’t eat it. The third mom had eaten pencil erasers.

We immediately referred all three moms to their providers. Pica-related cravings are clearly unhealthy and can even be dangerous. You should immediately discuss these issues with your provider if they arise.

During pregnancy, the most common types of pica cravings are dirt, clay and laundry starch, according to americanpregnancy.org.

One thing your provider will want to do is conduct some lab tests to determine if you have any nutrient deficiencies that may be causing pica. Keep track of when you have any strange desires. Is it in place of food? When you’re stressed? This can help your provider get a picture of what’s going on.

Just remember that cravings for strange foods during pregnancy are OK, no matter if it’s pickles and ice cream or pickle-juice popsicles.

So go ahead and enjoy that ketchup on your vanilla praline sundae!

What were some of your cravings during pregnancy? Please share in the comments below.

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