Health Female Adda
9 months ago
Pica during pregnancy: why women crave non food items during pregnancy and how it affects them

Pica is defined as craving and purposeful consumption of nonfood items. Caused by changing hormone levels, cravings are a side-effect of pregnancy, and for some women they can pose a risk. While most women crave ‘traditional’ things such as pickles when pregnant, cravings can sometimes be strange. The strength and seriousness of some women’s non-food cravings may, in fact, be pica. Dr Aruna Kalra, Gynaecologist and Obstetrics Surgeon, CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram, tells us more.

Causes of pica
The etiology of pica appears to be complex. Many environmental, nutritional, socioeconomic, physiologic, cultural, and psychiatric causes have been postulated. Some women apparently practice pica for medicinal purposes. For example, clay eaten in parts of Nigeria has been shown to contain kaolinite and to act as a potent antidiarrheal; it binds toxins and bacteria and may form a protective coat on the intestinal epithelium. Culture also can play a role in pica–for example, if it encourages specific dietary practices and indulgence of cravings. Possible nutritional deficiencies (vitamin and mineral deficiencies) are mostly the cause of pica. One of the most widely postulated causes of clay and dirt pica is iron-deficiency anemia.

How can pica affect the pregnant woman and her unborn baby?
Depending on the substance craved, pica can be potentially life-threatening, and the concern around pica in pregnancy is the harm it can do to mum and baby. The medical consequences, if any, of pica for mother and fetus vary with the nature of the substance ingested. Effects on the mother could include dental injury, constipation, intestinal obstruction, dysfunctional labor due to fecal impaction, parasitic infections, toxemia, interference with the absorption of minerals, lead poisoning, and hyperkalemia. Possible effects on the fetus include prematurity, perinatal mortality, low birth weight, irritability, decreased fetal head circumference, and exposure to chemicals such as lead, pesticides, and herbicides.

Image source: Shutterstock

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