What is Pica?


Pica is when a person begins to crave substances with little or no nutritional value. Most pregnancy and pica related cravings involve non-food substances such as dirt or chalk.


Pica is the Latin word for magpie, who, as we know, are notorious for eating almost anything. It is true that the majority of women will experience cravings during pregnancy; however, most of these cravings are for things like pickles and ice cream.


What causes Pica in pregnancy?


The reason that some women develop pica cravings during pregnancy is not actually known for certain.


However, according to the Journal of American Dietetic Association there may be a connection between Pica and iron deficiencies. Some speculate that pica cravings are the body’s attempt to obtain vitamins or minerals that are missing through normal food consumption.


Sometimes pica cravings may be related to an underlying physical or mental illness.



Common Pregnancy and Pica Cravings


The most common substances craved during pregnancy are dirt, clay, and laundry starch.


Other pica cravings include:

  • burnt matches
  • stones
  • charcoal
  • mothballs
  • ice
  • cornstarch
  • toothpaste
  • soap
  • sand
  • plaster
  • coffee grounds
  • baking soda
  • cigarette ashes



What are the risks?


Eating non-food substances can be harmful to both you and your baby. Eating non-food substances may negatively affect with the nutrient absorption of healthy food substances and actually result in certain deficiencies. Pica cravings are also a concern because non-food items may contain toxic or parasitic ingredients.


However, try not to panic; Pica happens and it is not abnormal. The most important thing is to inform your health care provider to make sure you have a complete understanding of the specific risks associated with your cravings.