Pregnant women craving dirt, cigarette ashes, toilet paper and old coffee grounds

- 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.

For some reason in recent years reports of pica have increased in Australia, South Africa and Jamaica

According to the word “pica” is Latin for magpie - a bird who will eat just about everything

Some speculate that pica cravings are the body’s attempt to obtain vitamins or minerals that are missing through normal food consumption.

The most common substances craved during pregnancy are dirt, clay, and laundry starch. Other pica cravings include:  burnt matches, stones, charcoal, cornstarch, sand, plaster, coffee grounds, crayons. baking soda, soap, toilet paper and cigarette ashes.

Information provided by the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University.

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