Dirt? Ash? Hair?! Odd Pregnancy Cravings Explained

A condition called “pica” is not unusual, but the cravings it causes can be

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(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – It’s not uncommon for women to experience unusual cravings during pregnancy, like pickles and ice cream, but for many women the urges can be much more bizarre. There are millions of documented cases of pregnant women craving and eating things like dirt, ashes, rubber bands – even hair or powdered laundry detergent.

“It’s a condition called pica and it’s actually very common,” said Dr. Melissa Goist, an OB/GYN at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “A lot of women are embarrassed to talk about such unusual cravings, so we don’t have a lot of good data on the condition, but it’s estimated anywhere from 8 to as high as 80 percent of women experience it at some level during pregnancy.”

The first case of pica in a pregnant woman was documented in the 6th century. Back then the cravings were a mystery, but today doctors know they are caused by anemia or iron deficiencies and almost always go away after the baby is born.

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Chrissy Kurtz of Hamilton, Ohio craved dirt during her first pregnancy, a condition called pica, which causes women to crave non-nutritive items typically due to iron or zinc deficiency.

Chrissy Kurtz of Hamilton, Ohio ate antacids to quell her craving of dirt during her first pregnancy.

Melissa Goist, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, says pica is normal for women to develop during pregnancy and they should never be embarrassed to tell their doctors.

Melissa Goist, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist examines a patient at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.