Food Behavior During Pregnancy

Life changes in pregnancy. Women start caring for two instead of one. Expectant mothers would do anything for the successful outcome of pregnancy. They may ask for multiple opinions from people regarding health, medical care, diet and other preparation before the arrival of the baby.

There is a change in diet during pregnancy. Diet may be affected because of personal and cultural beliefs, change in appetite patterns, medical advice and suggestions from relatives and friends.

Sometimes a belief that has no scientific basis can be dangerous. For instance, many pregnant women think that they can easily deliver babies of small size if they limit their food intake during pregnancy. Many believe that by gaining less weight during pregnancy by diet control they can get back in shape easily post delivery. Sometimes mothers avoid certain foods like milk, meat and organ meat during pregnancy. This may affect the baby as animal proteins are much needed during pregnancy.

It is common to crave for certain foods in pregnancy like ice cream, chocolates, sweets, tangy soups and sauces. At the same time, women may be averse to meat, alcohol, caffeine and very strong smelling food. Such aversions and cravings may be there even for non food items or they may be totally unrelated to a woman’s general likes and dislikes in food. One cannot say for sure if these powerful urges are harmful to health from the nutritional point of view.

Sometimes  pregnant women tend to eat clay, dirt, chalk, laundry starch, paper, ice, milk of magnesia, antacid tablets, mud, gravel, butter paper, charcoal and cigarette ashes. This kind of craving for substances which give little or zero nutritional value is called pica.

Pica may lead to nutrient deficiencies, toxicity, diarrhea, gastro intestinal obstruction and other disturbances. In diabetic women, pica during pregnancy may increase blood sugar levels due to consumption of non-food starch containing items.

Pica is a means of suppressing nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. It may also be the body’s way of compensating certain nutrient deficiencies like iron and calcium by consuming non food substances that contain the same. The roots of such behavior may be due to superstitions, cultural beliefs or a trend that is passed from mother to daughter.

Medical professionals must get to know of such eating behavior from pregnant women and educate them to eat nutritious food that will enhance the chances of a successful pregnancy.