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Here's to Pickles and Ice Cream

Constant Cravings

Enjoy the Ride, but Only Around the Block continued...

Cravings are most likely associated with changes in hormones during pregnancy, says Jennifer Niebyl, MD, head of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Iowa College of Medicine. Studies have shown that women get food cravings, or appetite changes, when they're taking the hormone progesterone for birth control or to relieve symptoms of menopause.

Should moms-to-be give in to their dietary urges? Pregnancy is supposed to be enjoyable, so have a little fun with your cravings, the experts say, but don't go overboard. The key is making sure you're getting a healthy diet first, and then working in those extras.

"If you eat whatever tastes good, pretty soon you could be 400 pounds," says Bruce Bagley, MD, a family-practice physician in Latham, N.Y. "Make sure you have a balanced diet, and then if you feel like eating ice cream, go ahead, but within a reasonable calorie range."

Women should consume only about 300 more calories than usual per day during pregnancy. That should include one extra serving of milk or dairy for calcium and about 10 additional grams of protein. Fats should remain at 30% or less of total calories.

A more serious condition related to cravings is "pica" -- an urge to eat non-nutritive substances like dirt, chalk, clay, or even toilet paper and laundry starch. There's evidence of these bizarre cravings as far back as ancient civilizations, when people used such substances to quell morning sickness.

"Most of those substances aren't harmful per se, as long as the patient is eating, too. Nutrition is the issue," says. Ronald Chez, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of South Florida. Women are often reluctant to confess such cravings, but discussing them with a doctor or midwife can help assess any nutritional problems.

Chocolates, Blueberries, and Those Pesky 'Momisms'

Is there any rhyme or reason to what you'll reach for? Ward says fatty, sugary, or salty foods are the most common -- hence the pickles and ice cream. Particularly in the first trimester, they may be the only foods you can keep down, and since morning sickness is worse on an empty stomach, cravings may be a protective device to stay full.

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