What the Heck is Pica?

picaI was watching MTV's True Life: I'm Having Twins the other day and one of the moms on the show ate chalk. Yep, she took the white chalk right out of the box and chewed on it. Her sister was so intrigued she had to try it, too. She made a face, so I don't think she liked it as much as the pregnant woman.

I wondered why she didn't just chomp on Tums...sort of chalky and better for you. But eating things that shouldn't be consumed when pregnant is a condition called pica.


And I thought the craving of pickles and ice cream was the strangest thing some pregnant women crave. I'm having a hard enough time understanding how onions aren't bothering me when I usually painstakingly pick them out of any food. But it's good to know about this...for me and for recognizing it in friends who are pregnant.

Pica happens to mamas-to-be, but also to kids. American Pregnancy notes that the word pica means magpie in Latin -- a bird that eats just about anything. Pica cravings most commonly include clay, chalk, and laundry starch, and they say that there is no known cause, but the Journal of American Dietetic Association believes it may be connected to an iron deficiency.

Other cravings include burnt matches, stones, mothballs, charcoal, toothpaste, soap, and cigarette ashes.

What to do if you have pica cravings? Talk to your doctor. She'll monitor your vitamin levels and may even suggest chewing sugarless gum when the urge strikes. Also alert your family and friends so they can help you avoid pica.

Have you had pica cravings? What is the strangest thing you've craved during pregnancy?


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