Pregnancy Cravings: Why They Happen and What to Do About Them

Pregnancy is an incredible experience, but it can also be confusing for many expecting mothers. So many changes are happening throughout the body and emotions that sometimes you just don't know what to expect. One of the most common side effects during pregnancy is cravings – from pickles and chocolate to rare steak and ice cream; questions about why these cravings happen, if they’re expected, and what we should do about them abound! In this blog post, we will look at the science behind pregnancy cravings and explore some tips on how best to manage them. So grab your favorite snack (or whatever craving is currently hot), and let's dive into understanding more about this unique phenomenon of early motherhood!

The Reason For Pregnancy Cravings

Hormone Changes

Pregnancy is a time of tremendous physiological change, particularly during the first trimester. The hormonal fluctuations can be compared to PMS, but times a million. During this time, hormones can significantly alter your sensory experience of food as well as your mood and sense of smell, which can all contribute to the types of food cravings you experience. It is essential to maintain a healthy diet during pregnancy, not just for the mother but also for the baby. Ensuring that the baby receives the necessary nutrients is paramount to a healthy pregnancy, so keeping the cravings in check and opt for nutritious and filling options instead is essential.

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Nutritional Needs

During pregnancy, the body requires a variety of nutrients to support both the mother and the baby. Calcium and iron are two of the most essential nutrients for pregnant women, but it's not uncommon to find yourself having cravings for less nutritious options like ice cream. While indulging in some sweet treats is perfectly fine (and sometimes necessary!), it's important to remember also to incorporate more nutritious sources of the nutrient you crave into your diet. Dark leafy greens, almonds, and fish are all great sources of calcium, in addition to that well-deserved ice cream. Ultimately, taking care of yourself and your baby means balancing indulging those cravings and ensuring you're getting all the nutrients you need.

Sensory Changes

Pregnancy is a time of massive changes for the body, including a heightened sense of smell for many pregnant women. As if having a tiny human growing inside of them wasn't enough, some people also have to deal with the overwhelming ability to smell every scent within a mile radius. This newfound ability can drastically impact their food cravings, as certain smells can be total turn-offs while others are suddenly irresistible. It's all in the baby's name, though, as the body tries to protect and nourish them in the best way possible. So even though pregnant people may feel like bloodhounds, it's all worth it for the little one on the way.

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Craving for Comfort

Pregnancy can bring about many changes to a woman's body, including unexpected food cravings. Many expectant mothers reach for certain foods that they associate with comfort, such as sweet treats or carb-heavy meals. Interestingly, pregnancy can also trigger cravings for foods that we may not typically consider desirable, such as bland or plain items. For women experiencing nausea during pregnancy, these simple foods can provide a much-needed sense of relief. Most importantly, expectant mothers consume a balanced and varied diet that provides all the nutrients needed for a growing baby.

When Do The Cravings Start?

When it comes to pregnancy cravings, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Some women never experience them, while others may start to feel them as early as the first trimester. However, it's important to note that many women experience food aversions during the first trimester instead of cravings. These aversions can be triggered by morning sickness, making certain foods unappetizing or even repulsive to expectant mothers. Despite the variability in cravings, it's essential to maintain a healthy and balanced diet for the health of both the mother and the baby.

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Pregnant lady preparing a sandwich

What Do Pregnancy Cravings Mean?

When it comes to pregnancy, there's no doubt that cravings can be a powerful force. Some women may find themselves inexplicably drawn to certain foods or flavors during this time, while others experience more unusual cravings, such as ice or nonfood substances like laundry starch or clay. While it's unclear what causes these cravings, some nutritionists and healthcare providers believe they could be meaningful. In particular, they suggest that cravings for nonfood substances may be linked to a lack of specific vitamins or minerals, such as iron or zinc. While more research is needed to understand the relationship between cravings and nutrient deficiencies fully, it's clear that the health of both mother and baby can be impacted by good nutrition during pregnancy.

As parents, we constantly worry about providing our babies with everything they need to thrive. Sometimes, that includes paying attention to their cravings. Alternative medicine practitioners have suggested that a shortage of magnesium can trigger a chocolate craving, but did you know that many babies also crave essential fatty acids? Adding fish or flax to their diet can help those cravings disappear. Additionally, a craving for red meat could indicate a need for protein. And if your baby suddenly can't get enough peaches, they may be responding to their body's need for beta-carotene. Paying attention to cravings can help ensure our little ones get all the necessary nutrients.

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How to Combat Your Cravings

During pregnancy, it's not uncommon to experience sudden and intense food cravings. It's essential to listen to your body and satisfy those cravings in moderation. A balanced diet that meets your emotional and nutritional needs is critical. However, it's important not to let unhealthy cravings get in the way of consuming nutritious foods that nourish you and your growing baby. Frequent meals and exercise can help you avoid giving in to less-healthy cravings, such as excessive sugar intake. Even something as simple as eating breakfast daily can make a huge difference in managing cravings. And don't forget about the importance of emotional support during this exciting and sometimes challenging period.

Managing Your Pregnancy Cravings

Often, pregnancy cravings stem from nutritional needs. By understanding why they happen, pregnant individuals can better healthily regulate their cravings. With the help of a healthcare professional, parents-to-be can consider smart dietary substitutions that also fulfill unusual food requests during pregnancy. Furthermore, scheduling time for self-care activities and managing stress levels have also been shown to reduce pregnancy cravings. Ultimately, having an open line of communication with your healthcare provider is essential for developing personal strategies to handle pregnancy cravings healthily and productively.

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