Why Do Pregnant Women Crave Dirt?

Don’t let her eat it, no matter how hard she insists.

Originally Published: 
A woman's hands covered in dirt.
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A drunken sitcom writer didn’t just invent the pregnant-lady-wants-pickles-and-ice-cream schtick. Bizarre food craving is an actual thing that happens to actual pregnant people. Here’s the thing: Although some pregnant people get a desire for kimchi on sponge cake (yum!), others want to eat dirt or all the chalk in the craft aisle at Target. You can try to erase that one from your mind, but it totally happens. It’s called pica.

Pica, in its most scientific definition, is the craving and consumption of items that aren’t food. Pica during pregnancy has been found all over the world.

For many pregnant people, pica manifests in chowing on dirt (or at least wanting to). This is called geophagia. Other pregnant people might go cuckoo for uncooked starch (amylophagia) or ice (pagophagia).

Other common pica cravings include:

  • Burnt matches
  • Coffee grounds
  • Baking soda
  • Cigarette ash
  • Sand

Pica appears to be linked to having anemia. The body’s need for certain micronutrients associated with a lack of proper nutrition potentially triggers the unbearable cravings. But in the end, the cause of pica during pregnancy remains a mystery.

No matter how strong the cravings, however, it’s important that a pregnant person resists. Eating nonfood items is dangerous. It can expose both your partner and your baby to any number of toxins (or in the case of dirt, bacteria and viruses) that could cause pregnancy complications.

The first thing to do when your pregnant partner experiences pica is to make sure their doctor knows what’s going on, and they may want to check iron intake.

As far as dealing with the cravings, that’s a bit more tricky; one solution may be to chew flavorless gum.

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