During your pregnancy, you may have found yourself craving some odd food combinations that weren’t of interest to you before. These are the so-called food cravings that happen during pregnancy and that 50%-90% of all pregnant women experience.
But when do pregnancy cravings start? Well, the most common period is somewhere in the first trimester of your pregnancy and they can last all the way up until delivery.
However, they’re at their strongest during the first trimester and a bit into the second trimester as well.
You’ll find yourself wanting to scoff some of the oddest food combos ever.
From sweet foods like ice creams, puddings and pies, to unhealthy foods like various take-outs and fast foods in the forms of pizza, potato chips, and all kinds of other salty foods.
Sour foods and spicy foods can also start hitting the spot as your hormones start influencing your appetite and you find yourself craving a certain form of savory delight like curry – or even pickles of all things.
Foods like dairy products, including ice cream and various cheeses are also popular. Even some healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables.
These are all common pregnancy cravings, but there are also some rather uncommon ones like wanting to consume nonfood items, which can be a bit nasty if you don’t treat them in time.
What Triggers These Odd Cravings?
Well, the answer to that is rather simple.
It’s the hormones, or rather, the rapid hormonal changes that happen in our system once pregnancy kicks in.
They start messing with our sense of taste and smell – both very relevant parts of food recognition – and start enhancing our appetite because of the extra blood we need to produce and that the body needs to make up for.
That’s why a lot of women tend to crave food rich with iron, as their body seeks to avoid iron deficiency during pregnancy while there is an increased demand for producing it.
And sometimes, it’s just as simple as craving a certain comfort food that we’re used to, hence the reason dark chocolate, ice cream, and junk food are some of the most common cravings.
They’re the placebo that may have given us some form of comfort in the past and are now something the body craves knowing they still carry some level of nutrition despite the risk of potentially excessive weight gain.
Are Pregnancy Cravings The Cause Of Morning Sickness?
This is a rather common question asked alongside when do cravings start in pregnancy, and it’s a very reasonable one to ask.
Nobody likes feeling sick at any point in time. The answer is that sometimes they are.
If you eat some odd and particular food combinations like ice cream and pickles together, but most of the time morning sickness syndrome is caused by so called food aversions.
Food aversions are the exact opposite of pregnancy cravings, where our body starts to develop a distaste for certain foods as it builds up a desire for others.
The most common food aversion during pregnancy is meat, oddly enough.
Despite meat being something that sates regular nutritional needs in most people, our body opts to gravitate away from it during pregnancy because it finds it to be a source of potential food poisoning and bacteria.
This leads to us not wanting to consume it during the pregnancy period and could be one of the main reasons why we have these odd cravings for other things we might not even have liked before, to compensate for the lack of protein from the meat.
Is It Normal To Have Pregnancy Cravings?
As I stated earlier, it very much is. It’s something that affects well over half the pregnant women in the US and isn’t a permanent issue.
Normally you’ll only end up carrying a few extra pounds that are easy to get rid of, though sometimes it might be worse and you could end up with some potentially severe consequences.
So the question you need to ask shouldn’t be when cravings start in pregnancy, but rather how you should deal with these cravings instead.
The Risks Of Not Controlling Your Pregnancy Cravings
Seeing as these cravings tend to be rather frequent and the urge for certain foods is almost insurmountable when it hits, you might end up eating a lot more than you need to.
Unfortunately, it can be rather difficult to gauge the bar of increased appetite at first, meaning you’ll tend to overeat a lot more often during the early weeks of your pregnancy food cravings.
But, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn what keeps you sated. If you don’t, you might risk getting a lot more than just a few pounds, potentially even ending up with gestational diabetes.
While it may not be as life-threatening as type-2 diabetes, gestational diabetes can still cause some problems for you and your baby during their developmental cycle inside your womb.
It usually leads to them growing bigger than they were meant to while still inside, leading to issues during delivery and an increased chance of having to have a C-section since the baby becomes too big to exit the natural way.
Another issue is the risk of going into premature labor as eating too much can cause the formation of excess amniotic fluid, leading to your waters breaking and you going into labor a lot earlier than you should (before the 37th week of pregnancy).
Plus, it makes for a whole lot of trouble at the delivery table.
Another thing that is associated with gestational diabetes is pre-eclampsia, a condition caused by the high blood pressure that comes with gestational diabetes and that can cause a whole number of problems.
The main one being potential kidney damage and long-term risk for your overall health. So I beg you to please look after yourself during this testing period in your life.
Preventing Excess Weight Gain During Pregnancy Cravings
The key to stopping any of the bad effects from happening, or at least reducing their overall chances, is covered in a few easy steps which I’ll go through with you.
1. Practice moderation
The number one and main step is to remain strong willed and learn that things need to be taken in moderation.
Just because your body yearns for those freshly baked chocolate muffins doesn’t mean you should indulge in them. Know what your limits were before pregnancy and up them by about 10% maximum, no more.
I know it’s hard to fight natural urges since it means trying to fight hormonal chemistry, but I trust that you’re all capable women with wills strong enough to do just that.
If, however, the task proves too hard for you initially, don’t be afraid to talk to an obstetrician or a gynecologist for help in reigning the cravings in.
They usually have a lot of solid and personalized advice tailored on a patient to patient basis.
2. Don’t keep unhealthy snacks in the house
Something that might help stave off those hunger pangs for the unhealthy, carb filled stuff is to simply not keep any around the house.
This means no junk food and no ordering any fast foods. This also means not keeping any of the stuff that is normally bad for the baby around as that might end up coming up as a craving as well.
So alcohol, any sort of eggs, unpasteurized dairy, and questionable fish are off the menu to reduce the risk of food poisoning.
3. Stock up on the healthy stuff
Alternatively, you can simply stock up on the healthier options instead.
Things like fresh fruits and vegetables, dark chocolate, and any other specific foods that qualify as healthy snacks that your doctor may suggest.
Trust me, all of them are tasty even when you’re pregnant and your body and your baby will thank you for swapping to a healthier alternative.
4. Combat the constant cravings by having more meals a day with fewer calories
By this I don’t mean you should double your food intake, instead what I’m trying to say is that you should portion off your normal calorie intake to 5, maybe 6 meals a day.
This small trickle of food every hour or two will help keep your digestive system up and running and will help burn some excess mass you might accumulate if you do end up slipping up and overindulging here and there.
Though, this should help you keep your urges in check overall as you will be trying to trick your body into thinking you’re eating more when you’re actually eating about the same.
Doing it this way also helps stabilize your blood sugar to more acceptable levels throughout the day, minimizing any dips that might cause the cravings that in turn may lead to some impulse buys.
5. Keep yourself busy to get your mind off the food urges
Try taking up some hobbies or simply going out for walks during this period of your life. It can greatly help to focus your mind on something else.
You are a lot less likely to pay attention to that craving for that jar of pickles in the fridge if you’re out walking through the park or reading a book and focusing on that captivating chapter instead.
Having some emotional support in the form of your partner or just a close friend can be a tremendous help.
There’s nothing like words of encouragement and even some stern talking to if need be from a loved one to keep those hunger urges in check, letting us deal with them in a calm manner.
It’s probably the best time to be social as these people in your life, the people that care about you, will be able to provide you with a solid food alternative – peace of mind.
6. Do some exercise
This ties into the previous piece of advice as it is another way to keep you busy, but wit pregnancy workouts you’ll also end up keeping in shape as well.
This reduces the time you’ll need to devote in the post-pregnancy period to trying to get rid of those few extra pregnancy pounds you accumulated while pregnant, leading you to regain your pre-pregnancy body a lot sooner.
7. Have a cheat day every now and then
Again, nobody is perfect and a pregnant woman is bound to slip up here and there. I know I did during my early pregnancy.
It’s nothing to be ashamed of – sometimes natural instincts and hormonal urges get the better of our wills when we let our guard down.
The healthiest way of going about this is to give yourself a reprieve every now and then – say once a month – to give yourself a bit of a reward and give in to these cravings.
Sometimes a tub of ice cream is just the treatment that you need and nobody can say otherwise. If anyone deserves it, it’s all the strong mamas that power through pregnancy like champions.
8. Steer clear of satisfying odd pregnancy food cravings
There is a certain group of cravings that you should not indulge under any circumstances and that’s the one that gives you a weird need to consume downright inedible things like dirt, clay, soap and the like.
DO NOT GIVE IN TO THESE, they’re utterly unhealthy for you.
If you get these urges, you may have pica which is a condition characterized by outlandish food urges, most commonly present if you have some sort of zinc or iron deficiency.
Contact your family doctor immediately if you experience this and let them prescribe you the appropriate treatment, which will probably involve some iron and zinc supplements to combat the disorder.
If you don’t seek treatment, it can cause potentially permanent damage to your digestive system as well as a lot of added trouble during your pregnancy by adding a whole mess of stomach pain and bowel problems on top of everything else you have to deal with.
Trust me, it’s not a pleasant sight or feeling when you have to deal with it.
The main concern of a pregnant woman isn’t when do pregnancy cravings start or how early, but rather on how to deal with them.
The key is to adopt a certain lifestyle that will help keep them at bay for long enough that they’ll become a non-issue.
This is mainly because over-indulging in them can lead to potentially serious health issues like obesity, pica, gestational diabetes, and even pre-eclampsia if the former isn’t properly treated.
And there are a number of other complications that stem from the cravings as well ranging from premature birth to the increased need for a c-section, as well as a number of digestion problems.
Try your best to keep yourself safe and always make sure to have someone nearby to help you control these hunger pangs when they kick in the hardest.
Support is what pregnant moms need during this tumultuous period, both emotional and physical. It might be hard now, but it will all pay off in the end, trust me.
Just power through until the end.
I hope this little write-up ends up becoming a useful tool for you during one of the most testing times in your life and that it helps you power through it, even if only by a little.
- Bayley TM, et al. (2002). “Food cravings and aversions during pregnancy: Relationships with nausea and vomiting.”
- Pepper GV, et al. (2006). “Rates of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy and dietary characteristics across populations.”
- Manejwala O. (2013). “What really causes pregnancy cravings.”
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