We have all heard the stereotype of the pregnant woman who sends her husband to the all-night grocery at 3 AM for pickles and ice cream. While this portrayal is, for the most part, unrealistic, it is true that pregnancy does sometimes cause cravings.

Some nutritionists suspect that cravings are a body’s way of telling you that you are not getting enough of some sort of nutrient or another. A craving for milk, for example, might be your body’s way of telling you that you are low on calcium. Other research suggests that cravings during pregnancy may be hormone related, and that many women also have cravings during different stages of their monthly cycle. Other experts suggest that cravings for food of any type represent an unmet emotional, rather than physical, need.

Research suggests that 85% of pregnant women report having a food craving of some sort during pregnancy. These cravings, however, can vary greatly from woman to woman and from day to day. One woman, for example, might crave sour things like pickles, while another may crave sweets. Research is not conclusive as far as when the cravings take place during pregnancy, either; often, you may not have these cravings until long after your pregnancy has been detected by more traditional means.

Sometimes women crave things during pregnancy that are not particularly healthy, or even downright harmful. Women have reported craving everything from laundry soap to cigarette butts. This condition is known as pica. Pica is a condition in which a person craves non-food items that have no or little nutritional value. Pica has been tied to deficiencies in the body, such as low iron. When the nutritional deficiency is corrected, pica tends to disappear.

So, while cravings can be a sign of pregnancy, they can also be a sign of something else. If you or someone you know is experiencing prolonged cravings or cravings for non-food items with little or no nutritional value, you should contact your health care provider immediately.

Are Cravings a Sign of Pregnancy?