Answered by Errol Norwitz, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Norwitz is internationally recognized for his work in high-risk obstetrics. He is the Chair of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Tufts Medical Center, and a Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. He is board certified in Obstetrics & Gynecology and Maternal-Fetal Medicine.
Approximately 75 to 90 percent of pregnant women have food cravings during pregnancy that usually disappear in the beginning of the fourth month. Some professionals believe it is the body’s way of saying that you might be deficient in a certain vitamin. For example, some pregnant women crave fruits because their body might need more vitamin C.
Food cravings for a particular food, though, are not a reliable way to detect a vitamin or mineral deficiency. Some women have the classic cravings for pickles and ice cream, while others have a strong desire to eat highly spicy foods. More unusual and persistent food cravings (such as a desire to eat clay or soil or ice) may suggest an underlying iron deficiency. This particular condition is called “pica” and is relatively rare.
Food aversions are very common during the first trimester. Studies have shown that between 50 to 85 percent of all pregnant women have some sort of food aversion during pregnancy. This aversion is thought to be related to the hormonal changes inherent to early pregnancy. Some believe that food aversions are nature’s way to prevent women from eating certain exotic foods that might potentially harm their unborn child. Sometimes the mere smell of coffee or fried foods can send waves of nausea through pregnant women.