pica in pregnancy

Are you craving ice? Sand when you go to the beach? Bark when you observe the trees in a park? Well, pica in pregnancy will do that to you!

Pica syndrome is a rare condition in which the person who has it wants to eat things that aren’t food. The word “pica” comes from Latin – it designates the magpie, a bird known for having pretty unusual eating habits. It is a mental disorder that can have several levels or types (depending on what the person with pica syndrome wants to eat), and that can affect everybody. It is especially common among young children, for instance – and it can also affect some animals, like cats and dogs. But pica syndrome needs to be carefully considered if it happens during pregnancy.


Pica in pregnancy: Why does it happen?

First of all, we need to consider that pica syndrome is a mental disorder. However rare, it is a bit more common during pregnancy, because it gets combined with pregnancy cravings. Besides, many women are embarrassed to tell their doctors that they feel like eating the weirdest things – ice, detergents, chalk, or even balloons and insects!

According to the Journal of American Dietetic Association, pica in pregnancy can be connected to certain deficiencies in nutrients and vitamins. According to many nutrition experts, some pregnancy cravings are related to not having enough nutrients: for instance, if a future mummy is craving red meat it could be because she’s not getting enough protein from their body – so it sounds plausible that craving non-food items could be related to needing more quantity of important substances such as iron. In fact, in many reported cases, pica in pregnancy has been linked to an iron deficiency.

However, there are other theories that attempt to explain pica in pregnancy, like anxiety or stress, and other psychological and cultural factors.  But since it is such a rare condition, there is still much further research needed to understand how this disorder works.


Can pica in pregnancy affect my baby?

Yes – and it can also affect you too! No one should be eating inedible things, because they can contain toxins pernicious to us and can be very harmful. Sometimes, they can also be very dangerous, and led to poisoning, illnesses, and even intestine blockage, as well as pain and cramping. Sometimes, 

Besides, giving in to such pernicious pregnancy cravings could prevent you to eating other healthy foods that do contain the nutrients you need during pregnancy, or could make you gain too much weight, and still be malnourished.


How is pica in pregnancy treated? 

Since doctors haven’t yet been able to determine exactly what causes pica, they can deal with the disorder in different ways. You will have to work with a nutritionist and with a therapist, so you cover the possible psychological causes as well as the physical ones.


What should I do if I suspect that I have pica in pregnancy? 

If you suspect you may have this disorder (and you will easily know if you start craving crazy stuff), talk to your doctor about it. As uncommon as it is, they will have heard about it and will know how to help. Don’t be embarrassed: You’re not alone!

Besides, a good way of managing pica during pregnancy yourself (although that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to speak to your doctor) is making sure you are following a healthy diet, rich in nutrients and vitamins and which includes all the necessary food groups. Remember that a healthy diet doesn’t mean it has to be boring: there are plenty of yummy and healthy foods, and plenty of tasty recipes that you can try.


As you can see, that weird craving of cigarette butts has a name – pica. In pregnancy, you have to take care of yourself and of your baby, so it is very important that you deal with it. Eat well, talk to your doctor, and don’t eat non-food items even if you are really craving. You probably have other cravings as well, such as chocolate or pickles – so it is of course better that you cave to those!