From pickles with ice-cream, to chocolate and coal, you may get some strange cravings while you’re pregnant. But should you indulge or not?
Ever find yourself reaching for the pickle jar so you can add flavour to your ice-cream? Or are you dying to get a mouthful of the morning paper? Mums-to-be have been experiencing weird cravings for years and still no one can pin down a definitive reason why. Some experts believe cravings are linked to hormonal changes, but they're not convinced this is the only reason - it could also be your body's way of telling you what nutrients you're missing, or just an excuse to indulge in favourite foods. Whatever the reason, here's what you're likely to be drooling over during each trimester.
"You've got your pregnancy hormones to thank for your heightened sense of smell in your first trimester," says Sue. Although this might send you running to the toilet bowl, many mums-to-be actually crave particular smells, some of them stranger than others. "As your sense of smell is heightened you're likely to want to satisfy this with a very intense smell," says Sue, "which could explain why some mums-to-be crave the smell of petrol." But this is one craving you shouldn't indulge in. Although smelling a small amount of these types of fumes is unlikely to harm your baby, it's not recommended. So send your partner to fill up on his own.
Sucking or crunching on ice cubes is a common pregnancy craving early on. "Lots of pregnant women crave ice because it's really refreshing, especially if you've got bad morning sickness," says Sue Macdonald from the Royal College of Midwives. Some mums-to-be also experience sore gums during pregnancy and ice can help with this too. "The sensation of crunching and chewing on ice may help with easing the pain," Sue adds. But make sure you tell your dentist if there's any bleeding.
Try to control or distract cravings for inedible substances as well as high-calorie foods that are low in nutritional value. Othewise feel free to indulge within reason.
Dr Miriam Stoppard
"Pasta contains loads of carbohydrates and you might find yourself craving starchy foods like this - and rice and bread - in the second trimester, as they'll give you the extra energy needed to help your body with your growing baby," says Sue. If you're still experiencing morning sickness, pasta is a good plain food that your body might crave in the hope it can keep it down, giving you a much-needed energy boost.
'Pica' refers to a craving for something that isn't usually considered a food or drink - for example, when a mum-to-be craves coal, chalk or mud. "No one knows for sure why you might crave these things," says Sue. There are some studies that suggest pica in a mum-to-be could be associated with lower iron levels - even though most of the craved items don't contain any iron - but there still isn't any definitive evidence to confirm this. So, if you find yourself rummaging in the garage for leftover BBQ coal talk to your midwife about getting checked out for any underlying problems.
The end's in sight now, but it's still not too late for some last-minute cravings. Sweet things, such as chocolate and cake, are popular during the third trimester as the general consensus is it's your body's way of stocking up on energy before the birth. "If you're feeling low on energy it's better to stick to starchy carbohydrates, like bananas and porridge, and not sugary ones, as they're healthier and release energy more slowly," says Sue. "Although a treat of chocolate now and then won't hurt."
Find out more about what causes pregnancy cravings and whether you should feed them.
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