Beans with dulce de leche, whipped cream on bread, watermelon soup with brie cheese, ice, and even non-edible things like brick and soap.

Weird, curious, or just plain bizarre, cravings during pregnancy aren’t just an age-old joke or a spoiled excuse expectant mothers can use to test the patience of those around them. They are genuine and perfectly normal and can reveal the needs your organism has – therefore, within reason, they should be respected and clarified, but not always heeded. 

There are several scientific explanations for all of this: These cravings are eating disorders that occur during the gestational period, otherwise known as pica. It is characterized by ingesting substances with little to no nutritional value, edible or not, and is motivated by emotional, cultural socioeconomic, environmental, and physiological factors, such as the relief of digestive symptoms. 

Pagophagia (eating ice), geophagia (eating dirt or mud), and miscellaneous (atypical food combinations such as melon with margarine or peas with chocolate) are the most common types of cravings during the pica phase. However, the desire for non-nutritious substances such as coal, soap, paint, coffee grounds, mothballs, plastic, and chalk, among others, may also happen, posing severe risks. Pregnant women need to be careful with what they put inside their bodies. Especially

substances that aren’t edible not to cause issues such as intoxication, premature birth, low birth weight, and fetal exposure to chemicals, which can increase the risk of perinatal death.  

Of course, given most pregnant women are scared of harming the development of the fetus, they tend to suppress the riskier cravings. Talk to your doctor about your cravings; they might act as clues to health conditions such as anemia, constipation, a sprain, dental issues, infections, interference in nutrient absorption, hyperkalemia (large quantity of potassium in the blood) and even lead poisoning. With specific exams in hands, the doctor can determine the need to prescribe certain supplements or vitamins to the expectant mother. A craving for licking bricks, for example, can signal an iron deficiency and even anemia. It is believed that, when there’s a lack of a specific nutrient in the body, the brain will send signals to the metabolism, creating these cravings.  

A craving for things you used to hate

The increase in hormones progesterone and estrogen causes changes in olfactory sensitivity (which affects the way things smell), which can lead the woman to feel an uncontrollable desire to devour even the things she used to hate. Hormonal changes can also lower the mouth’s pH and the so-called “buffering capacity” (the saliva’s ability to maintain a constant pH), which causes excessive salivation. 

That’s why, all of a sudden, that same food you used to hate can help lower this discomfort and explain the desire for sucking on ice cubes or eating acidic foods, such as lemons, which can curb nausea and morning sickness. The craving for things that used to repulse you before you became pregnant shows what your organism wants you to do to feel better. 

And no, your baby will not be born yellow like a melon if you don’t chow down on one immediately. Neither is the fact that you, someone who hates milk, can’t wait to gulp down a huge glass of it a sign of insanity. That being said, do not forget to tell your doctor about any weird or odd cravings, including unusual or abnormal food combinations. Only your doctor will be able to tell if what you want to eat is a real necessity or just an extravagant request – and, of course, check whether you should satiate it or not.