Yup, there’s no need to panic. Wanting ice cream and pickles together is okay when you’re a few months away from being a mum! But like you, I also wonder when do pregnancy cravings start and why?

I also remember asking for strange food combinations while pregnant with my son. My appetite significantly changed that I even had a sudden dislike for food I used to like.

But, of course, anything we take into our bodies affects our baby. My curiosity then pushed me to read and research about this phenomenon more.

Eating for you is healthy, but understanding safe indulgence is also crucial. And so, I am highlighting some essentials you need to know once pregnancy cravings kick in.

When Do Pregnancy Cravings Start?

There is no definite time when food cravings among mums-to-be would start as every woman is different.

But generally, and as observed in studies, cravings and aversions begin during early pregnancy or the end of the first trimester. You’ll likely feel these changes once you experience morning sickness, too.

Pregnancy cravings will likely spike in the second trimester and decline towards the third trimester. However, in some cases, mums still crave certain food items even after delivery.

What Cause Pregnancy Food Cravings?

The reasons why food cravings arise are unknown. However, there are a few theories explaining their development:

  • Higher nutrient needs. There is no direct link between cravings and nutritional deficiency. But some believe that our body may signal for larger nutrient intake to support foetal development.
  • Hormonal changes. Hormone levels tend to fluctuate during pregnancy, significantly affecting women’s taste buds and sense of smell. Some then associate these sensory shifts to food aversion and craving for certain textures, flavours or types of food.
  • Comfort. During pregnancy, women go through nausea and lots of bodily stress. Satisfying food cravings then becomes an outlet for many to cope and feel better. It also explains why most of us crave usual comfort foods like sweets and carbs.

Simply Mumma_Common Foods Eaten When Pregnancy Craving Starts

What Are Common Food Cravings During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy food cravings vary from culture to culture. And some mums-to-be even find strange combinations of food the most delectable – the weirder, the better!

But in general, here are some common pregnancy cravings:

  • Pickles. One study concluded that pregnant women like high salt solutions more, which explains their craving for pickles.
  • Sweets. Your fondness for sugary drinks and snacks may be higher during pregnancy. While it’s okay to have chocolate or soda, make sure to do so in moderation to avoid gestational diabetes.
  • Starchy food. Craving for bread, pasta and potatoes are your body’s way of replenishing energy, which can drain fast when pregnant.
  • Fast food. Pregnant or not, pizza and burgers are our go-to when we want to treat ourselves or feel better. When pregnancy craving starts, these comfort food items also give the body extra calories and salt it needs.
  • Dairy items. Pregnant women typically crave foods rich in sugar and calcium, so ice cream is a favourite. You can, however, opt for yoghurt to keep your caloric intake in check.

What Should I Do When Pregnancy Cravings Start?

Giving in to food cravings from time to time is the best way around it. After all, the tendency to overindulge is higher when you restrain yourself from eating what you like.

However, if you are concerned about excessive weight gain or unhealthy eating, consulting your doctor or nutritionist can help. A healthcare provider can give you all the medical advice you need for a healthy pregnancy.

As for managing unhealthy food cravings, here are my suggestions:

  • Stock up your fridge or pantry with healthy snack options like yoghurt and dark chocolate.
  • Go for foods with a low glycaemic index like fresh fruit, cereals, wholegrain bread, rolled oats and beans.
  • Practice portion control, especially when craving ice cream and other high-calorie foods.
  • Get plenty of rest and sleep to help curb your junk food cravings.
  • Find non-food alternatives to control cravings, like working on a hobby or doing pregnancy exercises.

Simply Mumma_How to Handle Unhealthy Pregnancy Cravings

Why Do Some Pregnant Women Crave Non-Food Items?

It may seem unlikely, but some pregnant women crave dirt, paint chips, clay, ashes and laundry detergent. Doctors call this medical condition pica.

The reason for such non-food cravings is not undefined. But some link it to nutritional problems, particularly iron deficiency.

Experts say pica is relatively rare in well-nourished women and developed countries like Australia. Nonetheless, if you somehow become drawn to these toxic substances, consult a healthcare provider immediately.

Final Thoughts

Pregnancy is a life-changing chapter worth celebrating. And what better way to celebrate this milestone than to eat the food you like most.

When pregnancy cravings start, treat it as your opportunity to try items you’ve never eaten before! Pamper yourself and help your pregnant body adjust by enjoying good food.

Keep in mind, though, that you are eating to nurture your growing baby. So, eat responsibly by balancing your cravings with nutritious food. And consult a health professional when needed to keep you and your baby healthy.

Also, stay on the healthy track even after giving birth and consider doing these postpartum exercises!