NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Did you know that more women are pregnant at this time of year than any other? And if you’re one of them, you might be having some unusual cravings.
Craving pickels may be about needing salt. Ice cream could be about something cold, sweet and rich in carbs.
But more bizarre cravings happen because there’s often something missing in the body, and it can be treated, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported.
Chrissy Kurtz doesn’t think much about it now, but when she was pregnant, gardening was a challenge. Her house was being built at the time, and she was surrounded by dirt. She was overcome by an urge to eat it.
“There were a couple times that I actually did, just because it just was overwhelming — you know, the craving, that gritty taste,” she said. “So yeah, it was crazy.”
It’s not as odd as you might think. It’s a condition called “pica,” first described in 500 A.D. Though the cravings may be unusual, the condition is not.
“Some women feel ashamed to talk to you about it, and so we don’t really know, but people say anywhere between 8 and 80 percent of pregnancies can be associated with this condition,” said Dr. Melissa Goist, an OB-GYN at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.
Goist has seen women craving everything from dirt to ashes, rubber bands, paper and even powdered laundry detergent.
Most of the time, it’s simply caused by low levels of zinc or iron and is easily treated.
“We can draw some labs, and then most women I will put on an iron supplement,” Goist said. “And a lot of them actually tend to start to feel better or have less of those kind of cravings — weird cravings.”
Kurtz satisfied her cravings for gritty texture by eating antacids instead of dirt. As soon as her son was born, the cravings were gone.
“Educate yourself and realize that it’s not that big of a deal,” she said. “It is a craving that will pass.”
Most of the time, eating small amounts of things like paper or dirt isn’t harmful. Doctors are more concerned by things that contain chemicals — such as detergent — or are hard to digest — such as rubber bands.
Pregnant women should tell their doctors about their cravings, no matter how strange, because they may be able to help them get over them.