Food cravings during pregnancy

Me, pregnant, eating

The relationship with food during pregnancy is usually of aversion in the first trimester and of cravings during the second and third trimester.

During my pregnancy I suffer from nausea during the first 10 weeks and develop an aversion for broccoli and the odor of raw fish. As far as cravings are concerned, I wanted to eat salty foods (probably because of my low pressure – a constant before, during and after pregnancy -) and fruit (probably because of the freshness and sweetness).

Cravings have always been an interesting subject to study both for food scientists and psychologist. In the last 40 years numerous papers have been published on the topic. Reading through (some of) them I discover that the scientific consensus is that cravings are most a psychological factor then a biological one.

The concept of cravings during pregnancy is a constant among many cultures, but the desired foods differ from culture from culture.

In 1994 a study was conducted on pregnant women: they were given a box with either milk chocolate (which contains cocoa, has a high nutritional content and melts in the mouth) or white chocolate (which does not contain cocoa, has less nutritional value and melts less in the mouth). Pregnant women were more satisfied when the ate white chocolate, suggesting that cravings are not related to a biological and/or nutritional need.

Placket investigated cravings in pregnant women living in Tamil Nadu (one of the 28 States of India). In his study, women were craving mostly for fruit. The necessity of eating fruit was also recorded by Hill. Besides fruit, women in the study of Hill, reported to have cravings for sweet food and dairy. What is interesting is that these cravings did not impact on overall dietary intake, nor were associated with excessive gestational weight gain, maternal glycemia or offspring outcome.

A study from McKerracher revealed that some women of Yasawa Island, despite suffering from nausea and food aversion, tried to eat different food “for the sake of the baby”; suggesting the importance of nutrition education to optimize maternal and fetal health.

What is (or was) your relationship with food during pregnancy?

References:

Bayley et al., “Food cravings and aversions during pregnancy: relationships with nausea and vomiting”, (2002), https://doi.org/10.1006/appe.2002.0470

Hill et al., “Nutritional and clinical associations of food craving in pregancy”, (2015), https://doi.org/10.1111/jhn.12333

McKerracher et al., “Food aversions and cravings during pregancy on Yasawa Island, Fiji”, (2016), https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-016-9262-y

Michener and Rozin, “Pharnacological versus sensory factors in the satiation of chocolate craving”, (1994)

Orloff and Hormes, “Pickles and ice cream! Food cravings in pregnancy: hypotheses, preliminary evidence, and directions for future research”, (2014), https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01076

Placek, “A test of four evolutionary hypotheses of pregnancy food cravings: evidence for the social bargaining model”, (2017), https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.170243

Published by Martina Bodner

Biotechnologist, PhD Candidate in Food Chemistry, Science Teacher, STEM and autism advocate, mother.

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