Pregnancy Cravings Explained

Julie Ryan Evans
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Flickr Photo by norwichnuts
Pickles? Ice cream? Jalapeño peppers? All three combined?

Food cravings are often one of the earliest and most persistent signs of pregnancy. Just ask a husband who's been woken at 3 a.m. to go out into the dark, stormy night because his wife MUST HAVE French fries from McDonald's, a burrito from Taco Bell AND a some coconut cream pie from wherever he can find it.

For me, during my most recent pregnancy, it was spicy steak tacos from Chipotle (so many that I had to vary locations because I was embarrassed by the frequency of my visits) and sugar, oh so much sugar. With my son, I wanted more bland carbs - pasta, bagels, potatoes.

So what do cravings mean? Are they a real physical symptom or just the result of being given somewhat of a green card to finally eat what we want when pregnant?

Dr. Glade Curtis, author of Your Pregnancy Week by Week says that while it's unknown why cravings occur it's likely due to hormonal and emotional changes.

He urges women to keep their cravings in check.

"Moderation is a good idea, try not to give in to cravings for foods high in fat and sugar or loaded with empty calories, be careful," said Dr. Curtis. "You may pay for it with problems with weight gain or even gestational diabetes."

When I asked him if he thinks you can predict a baby's gender by what the mother craves, he said, "This sound a little like we are getting into an old wives' tale. I think it is fun to talk about, not hard science at this point. Could there also be a little wishful thinking?"

Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway, author of The Smart Mother's Guide, seconded the fact that there's no scientific proof of cravings linked to gender. She believes most cravings are indicators that the body is searching for something -- iron, calcium, protein, etc.

She says while most cravings are harmless if you indulge in moderation, there are some that must not be ignored.

"A lot of ice eating or a non-edible craving (like dirt) is a severe indicator of iron deficiency, which can harm the mother and fetus," Dr. Galloway said.

What do you crave while pregnant?

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