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Pica in Pregnancy

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Heartburn, morning sickness, uncontrollable
cravings for French fries
– these are pregnancy
side effects that everyone talks about.
You may have not heard that some women crave dirt (yes, the stuff that comes from the ground!) or produce so much saliva in their mouth that they have to spit. Find out more about these and other surprising pregnancy side effects.
Do you suddenly find
yourself craving non-
food items like ice,
chalk, or even dirt?
Then you may be
suffering from pica. No
one knows what causes these cravings,
but a combination of
biochemical, psychological, and
cultural factors may be
at work.The truth is
that as many as 68%
of all pregnant women
will experience cravings,
usually due to hormonal
The name pica, comes
from the Latin word
Magpie, a bird known to
eat nearly anything.
While it is also
associated with
nutritional deficiencies,
pica can occur when
there are no
The most frequent
deficiency noted is
anemia. This does not
mean that everyone
who has anemia will
crave non-food
substances, nor does it
mean that everyone
who craves non-food
substances has anemia.
For years scientists
have tried to peg each
craving with a specific
nutritional deficiency.
For example: ice is
supposedly either a folic
acid or iron deficiency
(anemia). In fact,
anemia may actually be
a result of the pica as
opposed to a cause.
When a person eats
non-food substances it
can interfere with the
absorption of the
nutrients in their food,
or the person can quit
eating regular foods in
favor of the craved
item. “Ironically, eating
non-food substances
like clay can actually
lead to anemia by
displacing iron-rich foods and interfering with iron absorption,” offers Rick Hall, RD.
Types of Pica
Geophagia is the
consumption of earth
and clay. Geography
guide, Matt Rosenberg
puts it in perspective,
“Most people who eat
dirt live in Central Africa
and the Southern United States. While it is a cultural practice, it also fills a physiological need for nutrients.” He also points out that it may be though of as a relief from common
pregnancy ailments like
Amylophagia is the
consumption of starch
and paste.
Pagophagia is the eating of ice. Ladies actually know this one well. As a normal ice hater, when pregnancy comes, people start driving through every
restaurant and getting
ice. They have my
favorites too. It usually
disappear shortly after
the birth, but it’s very
intense while they are
pregnant. They’ve
never been shown to
have anything that
would cause this.
There is also the
consumption of ash,
chalk, antacids, paint
chips, plaster, wax, and
other substances.
These can be very
harmful substances due to toxicity or blockage concerns.
When the substances
consumed are not toxic
or harmful, such as ice.
It is not necessary to
stop eating the
substance. However, in
some cases eating toxic substances or
substances like dirt and
clay, have actually lead
to the death of the
person. So they should
be informed of the
dangers signs of eating
that particularly
substance. This may
include: pain,lack of
bowel movements,
bloating and/or
distention of the
abdomen, or change in
bowel habits, not
associated with
All in all, not much is
known about pica. The
biggest concern of
practitioners is that
pregnant women will
fear confiding in them
for fear of embarrassment over
eating non-food
substances. This
increases the risks to
both the mother and
the baby’s health.
Direct your questions as comments or as email to


Author: Oginga McOginga

Am a health practitioner who derives pleasure from writing and sharing educative materials on health and general wellbeing.An open minded individual who loves humanity.So far earning a title of a clinical nutritionist. Editor in Chief at Magazine Reel ( Soma Media Ltd

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