It’s an experience many moms-to-be face: the late night craving for something so obscure that it’s near impossible to find (Sriracha ice cream, anyone?) But in addition to wondering where to get their fix, many pregnant women may wonder what pregnancy cravings mean — other than you want a certain food ASAP.
Well, to be honest, there isn’t a specific answer. Some people will tell you that cravings for specific items are caused by actual nutritional deficiencies or merely psychologically or socially induced. But in speaking with Lori Loghin, a nurse midwife of Overlake OB-GYN in Bellevue, Washington, I discovered that may not be true.
“I don’t think, biologically, there’s a good reason for wacky cravings or any craving for that matter,” Loghin says. “I don’t think there is enough solid scientific evidence to support a reason. We assume that all the raging hormones play a role, but I have yet to find a really good evidence based paper on the real reason women have cravings. The only thing we know for sure is that pregnant women have cravings — for one reason or another, they do.”
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a reason you’re craving something sweet, salty, or a combo of the two. Whether it’s based in science or some old folk lore, there could very well be a reason you crave chocolate covered pickles every minute of every day.
To help you read between the dietary urges, here are some “reasons” behind the most common pregnancy cravings. (Not that you need a reason. You do you mama!)
1. If You’re Craving Dairy Products
Hot fudge sundaes, anyone? Blame it on the baby! Or maybe you just really wants a Blizzard. Regardless it’s ok to treat yourself — in moderation, of course. Loghin also suggest patients try healthier alternatives, like homemade banana “ice cream” topped with a spoonful of sprinkles or mini chocolate chips.
2. If You’re Feeling Fruity
Are you popping berries like candy? You’re not alone. Loghin says fruit is one the most common pregnancy cravings, and it may be the best craving for you. In addition to being juicy and sweet, fruits are full of vitamins and fiber, which your body needs to stay strong for the baby.
3. If You Want Nothing But Chocolate
The only thing pregnant women crave more than fruit — chocolate.And it’s easy to see why. Chocolate is a rich, sweet treat that can increase serotonin levels, giving you a quick mood boost. High quality dark chocolate is especially beneficial, as it is rich in antioxidants, which may lower your risk of cancer and heart disease.
4. If You Crave Salt
If you’re having a love affair with a bag of potato chips, you may be nearing the end of your pregnancy. Salt cravings tend to be more prevalent as pregnancy progresses, according to a studyconducted at the University of Connecticut at Storrs. This is possibly because as a woman gets further along, her blood volume increases, and so does her need for sodium. For those who are digging into the chips, Loghin suggests drinking plenty of water to balance out the increased salt intake. Because the last thing a pregnant woman needs is excess swelling, especially if the weather is hot.
5. If You’re Craving Things That Aren’t Food
Although pregnancy cravings can be pretty weird, the desire to digest a tube of toothpaste may be a sign of Pica. The Bump notes that this medical issue causes women to want unusual items, and can lead to a host of problems if the craving is acted upon. Loghin says it is usually a sign of iron deficiency anemia, which can be solved simply by oral supplementation. One way of dealing with these strange hankerings as they strike? Chew a piece of sugar free gum or pop breath mints.