Cravings in pregnancy: when they start, how to deal with them and when to worry

Cravings are an irrepressible desire for a particular type of food. There is no specific time in pregnancy when they begin: it is different for every woman and not all women develop them.

If you start having cravings, it will probably be in your first trimester, probably already around the 5-6 week of pregnancy. They will become stronger in your second trimester, drop in the third trimester, and disappear after the baby is born.

There are many cravings and many forms: some women crave fatty foods – such as french fries; others have cravings for foods they didn’t like before they became pregnant; Others crave unorthodox food pairings — like Nutella and French fries.

Whatever the cravings and their intensity, the important thing is always to try to eat as best as possible, limiting the less healthy cravings and saying “no” to absolutely unhealthy temptations (such as toothpaste, earth or other inedible objects).

If you find yourself craving things that aren’t edible, talk to your midwife or doctor as this could be a sign of a vitamin deficiency.

How common are pregnancy cravings?

We have not found data referring to the pregnancy cravings of Italian women, but from an American study we know that between 50% and 90% of pregnant women in the United States will experience them. The prevalence and nature of the craving varies significantly depending on the geographical region, the culture under consideration and different psychosocial factors.

List of common pregnancy cravings

As we have seen above, food cravings during pregnancy are highly individual and variable. Here are the 10 most common food cravings women experience during pregnancy according to research:

  1. sweets (chocolate, candy)
  2. carbohydrates and high-calorie salty foods (toast, sandwiches, pizza, chips)
  3. animal proteins (beef, pork, chicken)
  4. fruit
  5. high-calorie salted dairy products (cheese, sour cream)
  6. carbohydrates (brioches, pretzels, cereals)
  7. fast food (burgers, kebabs, Chinese, Mexican, falafel)
  8. cold foods (popsicles, granitas)
  9. vegetable
  10. high-calorie sweet dairy products (ice cream, milkshakes).

What foods to avoid

When you’re pregnant, there are certain foods you should avoid. Things like:

  • raw or unpasteurized dairy products
  • soft cheeses e.g. brie, goat cheese
  • sushi
  • raw eggs
  • pate, meat sauces and smoked seafood
  • raw ham, salami, raw sausage, bacon, speck, bresaola and capocollo
  • undercooked foods, especially meat

These can contain harmful bacteria, including salmonella and E. coli. and lead to harmful diseases such as listeria or toxoplasmosis.

Make sure you prepare and store food safely.

Read more about foods to avoid during pregnancy .


There is no safe level of alcohol you can drink while pregnant. Alcohol can harm the embryo and fetus. Whether you are trying to get pregnant, are already pregnant or are breastfeeding, not drinking is the best choice.

What do cravings mean

Typically, just because you crave a certain food doesn’t necessarily mean your body needs it—there are no scientific connections between pregnancy cravings and specific foods or nutrients needed by you or your fetus. In other words, there is no good answer to the age-old question “Why do pregnant women crave pickles?”

Link between cravings in pregnancy and the sex of the baby

You may have heard that the type of birthmarks you have in pregnancy could be predictive of the gender of the baby. Specifically, the theory goes that if you crave salty foods, then you’re having a boy, while if you crave sweet foods, then you’re having a girl.

However, there are no studies or empirical data showing that food cravings are different when you are pregnant with a male than a female. Similar to the pendulum test, cravings is a fun (but not scientific) way to try to guess the sex of the future baby.

Why does pregnancy cause cravings for food, not food and ice?

Food cravings in pregnancy probably have their genesis in the head, they are a product of pregnancy hormones: hormones can affect your sensory experience of food, your sense of smell and your mood, which determine the type of food you want.

Many women crave certain foods that give them a feeling of well-being, such as sweets and carbohydrates. They could also be childhood-related foods that they associate with comfort and love.


During pregnancy some women may experience cravings for non-food products such as laundry detergent, dirt, clay, ash, paint flakes, etc. This is a disorder called , which can be a sign of a nutritional deficiency.

If you have “non-food cravings,” such as those mentioned above, do not indulge them and instead consult your doctor immediately. Eating non-food substances is potentially harmful to you and your baby.

Ice cravings

Craving to eat ice while you are pregnant is a symptom of iron deficiency and therefore can indicate anemia. Some pregnant women with anemia crave ice because it helps relieve inflammation in the mouth and tongue (a common symptom of anemia).

Cravings, changeable and unpredictable

Food cravings typically differ from pregnancy to pregnancy. They can also change from day to day. Don’t be surprised if food you’ve always enjoyed eating becomes repulsive overnight for no apparent reason. Sometimes, a pregnancy changes your food preferences permanently.

If you haven’t had any cravings during your pregnancy, don’t panic; this is also normal and not cause for concern. We know that between 50% and 90% of pregnant women in the United States will experience food cravings.

Remember that every pregnancy is different, and if you are unsure, your doctor should be able to give you advice tailored to you.

Food aversions in pregnancy

A food aversion during pregnancy is a strong desire to avoid a certain food. In general, the most common food aversions to surface during pregnancy are eggs, onions, fish and other seafood, garlic, meat and dairy products.

The common denominator among all these foods could be the smell factor, since onions, garlic, meat and cooked fish can have very strong smells.

Texture may also play a role: Eggs can be slippery or slimy, and some types of dairy products, such as yogurt, are thick and greasy and can therefore be unappetizing.

A possible cause of food aversions in pregnancy

This rise in hCG during the early weeks of pregnancy has been linked to unpleasant symptoms including nausea, which is known to be the leading cause of food aversions in pregnancy.

What to do if you have cravings

As long as you stick to your self-imposed diet, eat healthy and varied foods, and ensure you get all the nutrients you and your baby need, there’s no need to worry if you have occasional cravings.

It’s totally fine to humor them once in a while. But don’t use your cravings as an excuse to eat too much or unhealthily. Rather, try to find a compromise between complying with them and maintaining a strict diet.

Maybe you can use one or more of the following “tricks” to better manage them:

  1. eat regular, healthy meals, to help prevent sudden hunger “crises”
  2. Keep healthy and light snacks at home at hand
  3. Don’t shop when you’re hungry
  4. shop for healthy, low-GI foods that keep you full longer, such as unsweetened oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, baked beans, and fresh fruit
  5. sleep a lot: lack of sleep makes us more prone to craving unhealthy food
  6. always stay physically active
  7. drink lots of water
  8. brush your teeth regularly
  9. take your mind off food by going for long walks, reading books, or just watching some TV series
  10. avoid falling into the trap of “eating for two”. Eating for two doesn’t literally mean eating as much food as two people would eat and especially it doesn’t mean eating when you have a sudden craving
  11. drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  12. avoid eating without thinking. Take your time to eat and savor every bite. Avoid fast eating, eating while working or watching TV, and eating on the run.
  13. plan meals in advance. Plan for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as snacks in between. Choose healthy foods and you will see that you will eat healthy foods rather than looking for unhealthy foods to satisfy the random craving
  14. keep your stress levels low. It’s easy to get stressed out during pregnancy and even lose some sleep. Stress and general moodiness due to lack of sleep can lead to food cravings and even nervous hunger
  15. replace the unhealthy foods you crave most often with healthier ones. If you’re craving something that isn’t too healthy, you might consider substituting a healthier, but still satisfying, version. French fries in many cases can be replaced with baked potatoes; traditional biscuits can be replaced with fat-free or sugar-free ones; meat burgers can be replaced with veggie burgers.

According to a study published in the journal Appetite, the more often women give in to cravings during pregnancy, the more likely they are to gain weight during pregnancy. And experts agree that gaining weight during pregnancy is the main contributor to postpartum weight retention. In other words: the more weight you gain during pregnancy, the harder it will be to find your lost shape after giving birth.

Overcoming cravings in pregnancy, conclusion

One of the best ways to avoid pregnancy cravings is to schedule well-balanced meals throughout the day. And then, do regular physical activity and make sure you have plenty of emotional support!

When cravings assail you, get distracted. Take a walk, play, visit a friend. If it doesn’t work, you can help satisfy cravings by paying attention to what your body is craving or a healthier replacement dish.

If despite all your efforts you still find yourself craving a certain food, give in to the desire but remember that moderation is the key to a healthy diet during pregnancy.

If your cravings are for non-food products then you may have some nutritional deficiency. Talk to your doctor right away.

Pregnancy is a wonderful experience. Embrace changes in your appetite, but make sure your cravings don’t compromise your health or your baby’s!

Katherine Johnson, M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with clinical expertise in general obstetrics and gynecology, family planning, women’s health, and gynecology.

She is affiliated with the Obstetrics and Gynecology division at an undisclosed healthcare institution and the online platform,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *