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What is pica during pregnancy?

Paula Greer
Midwifery Nursing Specialist
Pica during pregnancy is a craving for non-food items. Sometimes it is just shaved ice or freezer frost. Other times it is things like clay or dirt, chalk, sand, soap, paper, paint chips, or even cigarette ashes. In certain parts of the world over 70 percent of their pregnant population have Pica. Pica is sometimes caused by an iron or zinc deficiency. Cravings can actually go away for those individuals with adequate iron or zinc supplementation. It is important to reassure mom and her family that she has not lost her marbles. It is important to educate her of the dangers of some of these cravings while reassuring her if she is not filling up on nonfood items that baby’s weight will not be affected as long as she consumes adequate daily nutrition from real food sources.
Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner
Pica is the craving of non-food substances that have little nutritional value. During pregnancy, substances frequently craved are dirt, chalk or clay. The cause of PICA is unknown, but some experts believe it is related to the presence of iron deficiency anemia.
Pica is the medical term for unusual cravings for non-food items such as clay or laundry detergent that some pregnant women experience. No one knows quite why this occurs, although it may indicate a nutritional deficiency. Contact your obstetrician right away if you experience these cravings.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.