Cravings are weird. There are times when you can pretty much set a clock by them, like "three days before my period, I will singlehandedly empty my kitchen of food." But in pregnancy it's different, and so are the cravings. What does it mean if you crave alcohol while pregnant? Is it being tipsy you're reaching toward, or the taste? I know that when I was pregnant, I had to absolutely find a replacement for my nightly glass of wine. I went for chocolate milk, but it was definitely an adjustment. If you like piña coladas, you are probably not satisfied with the virgin kind. (You are pregnant, after all.)
A study from the journal, Frontiers in Psychology, found that cravings, specifically pregnancy cravings, in general have more to do with the idea of cravings, and the expectation of cravings during pregnancy, than as any indicator of nutritional deficiency on the part of the mother. The only real exception to this theory is that of Pica, which is the craving to eat non-foodstuff like chalk, soap, dirt, or ice during pregnancy, which is linked to iron-deficiency anemia and other micronutrient deficiencies, according to the International Journal of Childbirth Education.
But alcohol is such a different beast. It's an addictive substance. With coffee, it's easy to understand why you absolutely feel like you need that cup or 14 a day. It keeps you up, helps you focus, helps you poop. It's like the wonder drink. But alcohol, it's an addictive sedative. Even if you only have a few glasses a week, you start to crave it.
So, what does it mean if you crave alcohol while pregnant? In order to determine why, let's talk about when. Alcohol is not just the beverage of choice of college kids and stressed out moms. It's a cultural institution that is connected to so much of what you do in your life. Baseball game — Bud Light over here. Weddings are toasted with champagne, getting out of work is commemorated with "happy hour" — it's not that you stop attending these functions just because you're growing people. Likely, it's just the opposite. There will probably be baby showers and dinners of congratulations, and babymoons. Not to mention, you're pregnant for nine months — you're bound to catch a few boozy holidays in there. You might be craving the social aspect of alcohol, a little bit of pregnancy FOMO, if you will. (Eggnog is really just an insult to injury during pregnancy, trust me. I always end up pregnant over the holidays, and eggnog's my favorite.)
Alcohol is not just a means of connecting and an enjoyable beverage in company. For many people, it's also a social lubricant. Popular science blog, I F*cking Love Science, noted how alcohol actually makes some people friendlier. It lowers your inhibitions and allows you to adapt and become more comfortable in social arenas. If you're suddenly without this little aid, like you are when you're pregnant, you might feel more anxious or awkward in social situations, which may make you crave that assistance. I get really chatty after a couple of glasses of wine. I always feel like I engage way less when I'm pregnant, and this may definitely be the reason.
However, if you're seven months pregnant, knitting your baby the coolest Star Wars beanie ever, and you feel yourself really wanting a nice, hoppy beer to go with it, it's likely just because you miss it. Alcohol isn't a craving that women are told they should have during pregnancy, and not covered under the Frontiers in Psychology study. However, The Palm Beach institute suggested that the craving for alcohol and its effects just simply tend to linger in the body and brain long after you stop drinking. Probably because you're explicitly told not to drink it, making you want it even more.
But it's not worth it. The March of Dimes noted that there is no amount of alcohol that is considered safe during pregnancy. It can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome, low birth weight, cognitive impairment, and is just too risky to mess with. If your cravings are more than just cravings, and you're having trouble with alcohol, seek help. There is nothing shameful about getting the help you need when you need it.
Nine months feels like forever, but it's actually pretty fast. Let me tell you, though, that first glass of wine after baby is born will taste better than any before it.