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Nicole Meadow
MPN, RD, Nutritionist

Pica During Pregnancy

Are you having really weird cravings? We're not talking about the pickles and ice cream kind — but for non-food items? Check out what to do if you have pica.

What is pica?

Pica is a condition in which pregnant women get strange  cravings for things that aren’t edible, like dirt and clay.

What are the signs of pica?

You guessed it: If you’re suddenly feeling the urge to eat the sand at the beach or the bark from a tree in your backyard, you may have pica.

Are there any tests for pica?

There aren’t any specific tests for pica, but since there may be a connection to vitamin deficiency, your doctor may test your blood for low levels of iron and zinc.

How common is pica?

Luckily, it’s not super-widespread during pregnancy. According to the American Pregnancy Association, cases of pica occur more often in children (in approximately 25 to 30 percent of children).

How did I get pica?

We don't know for certain what causes pica, but according to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, it could be connected to iron deficiency and poor nutrition.

How will pica affect my baby?

What’s scary is that nonfood items may contain toxic ingredients that can potentially harm both you and baby. Eating nonfood items may actually get in the way of your consumption of healthy and nutritious foods. Plus, if you do have a vitamin deficiency, it could mean baby’s not getting something he needs.

What’s the best way to treat pica?

If you're experiencing unusual cravings, contact your health care provider. Your doctor may test you for nutrition deficiency and give you vitamin supplements.

What can I do to prevent pica?

There’s no specific way to prevent pica, but getting the right amount of nutrients may help.

What do other pregnant moms do when they have pica?

“The last two weeks I’ve been craving ice, and I’ve been losing the battle to NOT eat snow. Doctor put me on iron pills yesterday.”

“I had it with my first pregnancy — I craved dirt. Don’t worry — I knew not to really eat it, but I loved to smell it. This time around, it’s sand.”

“I don’t have it, but a girlfriend of mine craved laundry detergent and dirt when she was pregnant.”

Are there any other resources for pica?

The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness

Plus more from The Bump:

What You Need to Know About Crazy Pregnancy Cravings 

Weird Pregnancy Cravings 

Most Common Pregnancy Symptoms