Pica is an eating disorder where the sufferer is drawn to eating substances with no nutritional value. The Handbook of Clinical Child Psychology currently estimates that prevalence rates of Pica range from 4%-26% among institutionalized populations. However, it is much more prevalent in children than it is in pregnant women.
Instances of Pica in Pregnancy
Pica often shows up in childhood but can affect pregnant women too. The prevalence of Pica in pregnancy is varied but you can get an idea from this chart. Studies also show that the main non-food items ingested are typically clay and dirt, chalk and ice.
There are not any tests available to determine if you are suffering from Pica. The best indication would be if you are suddenly craving the taste of fresh dirt from your backyard or if you feel like you absolutely must have a piece of chalk to finish off your lunch. The American Dietetic Association posits that Pica could be connected to vitamin deficiencies. In fact, if you find yourself experiencing odd cravings you should seek out your health care provider who will likely recommend vitamin supplements.
How Harmful is Pica?
Pica itself is not a harmful condition but the concern comes into play when pregnant women ingest non-nutritional substances that may have toxic properties – such as laundry detergent. Many women claim to crave ice while pregnant and this is thought to be a sign of iron deficiency so if you find yourself staring longingly into the ice tray consider asking your midwife or doctor about iron supplements or try Matraea’s Iron Mama Tea.