Food cravings are very common throughout pregnancy, though they are temporary and many are very short lived. If you are feeling thrown off by the shift, that’s normal. Many people feel very distressed by their pregnancy food cravings and it can lead to guilt around eating and feelings of regret. Keep reading to find out more about cravings during pregnancy and tips for relieving related discomfort.
The theories that may explain cravings during pregnancy:
- Hormones. It could be that the change in hormones is responsible for your sudden desire for pickles and ice cream. Though studies haven’t been able to pinpoint why this would be.
- Nutrient deficiency. Your body may need a certain nutrient contained in the food you crave so as to satisfy this deficiency. This one hasn’t been supported by recent studies, but it is one theory you’ll hear often.
- Psychology. Another theory that has gained traction in the research is around food restrictions and the resultant extreme drive to eat certain foods. When you make a food off limits, that can cause obsessive thoughts around it. In our culture, it is more acceptable for pregnant people to eat “indulgent” foods they might otherwise be restricting. So one theory is that pregnancy is a socially acceptable time to indulge.
We know the above theories aren’t fully responsible for pregnancy cravings, and knowing why they happen doesn’t make them go away. So here are some ways to approach cravings while you are pregnant.
Only you live in your body. Honoring its signals and eating when you need to builds trust with yourself. If you feel uncomfortable about the food you’re craving, try a small portion alongside other foods and see how you feel afterwards. Often, allowing yourself to more regularly have a serving of the food you crave helps you feel more in control of that craving and around that food.
Enjoy your food
Research done in 2016 showed that pregnant people who leaned in to their cravings consumed a slightly higher number of calories during their pregnancies than those who restricted. But overall, weight gain and health outcomes were the same for both groups.
Ask for help
For some people, this topic is extremely triggering, especially if you have a history of eating disorders. Pregnancy is a time that can bring those thoughts and feelings back up. So let your provider know if you’re noticing this in yourself.
Remember, what you are experiencing is very normal. And, while this may be uncomfortable, you aren’t stuck or alone. Your providers and other support networks are here to help.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team