Trust is an important trait to develop during pregnancy. Trust in your instincts as a mom. Trust in your partner. And especially trust in your body. From when you find out you are pregnant to months after giving birth, you must listen and observe changes in your body with particular attention and scrutiny. As my mom told me, “If you don’t take care of yourself, who will?”Some things, like feeling baby’s first fluttery kick, will be moments of great joy that you share with loved ones. Others, like the swelling of your feet, are rites of passage with every pregnancy that you really only share with your doctor (who am I kidding – you’ll share that with anyone who will listen!). A fun question pregnant moms are often asked is, “What are you craving?” Pickles? Ice cream? Potato chips? All of the above, probably (For me, it was mac & cheese and the occasional Pop Tart, FYI). But did you know that your craving could actually be your body telling you it’s missing something? Trust in your body, which is doing some pretty amazing stuff right now, and listen to the message it may be sending. Here are four common pregnancy cravings and what they might mean for your health.
Turning into the Hamburgler?
Desires for meat are a fairly common pregnancy craving and not one that should be ignored. Your body may need more protein since pregnant women need to consume 70 grams of iron-rich protein every day rather than the 45 grams needed by their non-pregnant counterparts. If this is your craving, try not to turn to fried chicken or red meat all of the time. You can get lean protein from grilled skinless chicken breast, fish, and the occasional steak cooked well done.
Put Salt on All the Things
Some women report craving nothing but salty foods, like potato chips, pretzels and pickles. You might even crave all of those snacks when you’re not pregnant! During pregnancy, the body needs to retain more fluid (hence the swollen ankles) to help fluids flow between baby and mom. If you crave salty foods, be sure to balance that with the intake of plenty of water and other healthy drinks.
Eat the Inedible?
No reason to be embarrassed if you are craving inedible items like chalk or dirt. It’s not as uncommon as you would think – just be sure to talk to your doctor about it – because it could be a sign of a condition called Pica. Pica could be the result of a deficiency of iron or zinc, and digesting inedible items would be harmful to the baby, so be sure to consult with your doctor if you’ve been experiencing this hunger.
Pass the Cheese
Pregnant women have been warned to stay away from non-pasteurized cheeses while pregnant, so maybe part of this craving is just wanting what you can’t have (guilty). But a craving for cheese may also be your body signaling the need for more calcium. Milk and dark, leafy greens like spinach are also great sources of calcium.
A Sudden Sweet Tooth
On average, pregnant women need to consume about 500 extra calories a day during the third trimester to ensure both mom and baby are getting enough nutrients. This can be hard for some to achieve, so a strong sweet craving could be a signal that you simply need to consume more calories. While giving into a craving is the easiest way to get rid of it, make sure that the majority of your calories come from lean proteins, fruits and vegetables. One of the most common questions you’ll be asked while you are pregnant is, “Do you have any cravings?” It’s an innocent enough inquiry, but the answer could reveal that your body needs a particular nutrient. So trust your body and your maternal intuition. If your body is sending you a message through your cravings, listen to it.