Here’s What Happens if You Ignore Pregnancy Cravings

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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If you experience food cravings during pregnancy, it can be hard to know whether you should ignore them or indulge. No mom wants to ignore a craving that might help her baby – or vice versa! What does the evidence say?

Ignoring pregnancy cravings is generally safe, especially if they are for energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods, such as desserts or snack products.

As long as you consume a healthy diet rich in foods from all food groups, it is your choice whether or not to indulge in your cravings – with a few exceptions we will discuss.

Let’s dive into more specifics regarding ignoring pregnancy cravings — when to ignore them, when to be concerned, and more!

Is it Bad to Ignore Pregnancy Cravings? 

Overall, it is not bad to ignore pregnancy cravings. However, it is not necessarily bad to indulge in them either, as long as you do it in a moderate and safe way. 

Researchers have struggled to pinpoint exactly why pregnancy cravings may occur and have found mixed results. One hypothesis is that pregnant women crave certain foods because of nutrient deficiencies (source: Frontiers in Psychology).

pregnant woman ignoring food craving, burger

While this very well may be the case, it does not explain why many pregnant women crave foods high in sugar, saturated fat, and salt

Additionally, researchers believe that pregnancy cravings could be a result of the hormonal imbalances that inevitably occur during pregnancy (source: Frontiers in Psychology).

Pregnancy can contribute to sensory changes, including taste and smell. Therefore, it can potentially cause cravings and aversions to certain foods. 

Regardless of the cause, your pregnancy cravings are most likely completely normal and nothing to worry about. Ignoring them is also not bad for you and your baby.

When deciding whether or not to ignore a craving, consider the type of food concerned. For example, since fruit is part of a balanced and healthy diet and is rich in beneficial vitamins and minerals, you can confidently indulge.

Food cravings for junk food, on the other hand, might be best ignored. However, even if you are craving a piece of chocolate or a cookie, indulging in these cravings in moderation is okay. 

Which Cravings Are Bad to Ignore When Pregnant?

Cravings for foods rich in certain healthy nutrients should not be ignored during pregnancy. For example, if you are craving oranges, it would be beneficial to listen to this craving, since citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C and other nutrients.

fresh orange on a table and orange juice in a glass

Listening to your cravings for healthy and nutritious foods can help you get in your fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and lean meats in a way that is enjoyable to you. 

Additionally, there are specific cravings that can indicate severe medical conditions and require attention. 

For example, a craving for ice or ice chips may indicate you have iron deficiency anemia (source: Mayo Clinic).

Scientists believe the purpose of this craving may be to increase alertness in those deficient in iron, but the exact causes are unknown. If you are severely craving ice, speak with your physician. 

Additionally, if you feel very thirsty, are hungrier than usual, and have low energy, these may be signs of diabetes. Speak with your physician if you experience these symptoms.

Which Cravings Can You Safely Ignore During Pregnancy? 

On the other hand, there are cravings that you can, and often should, ignore during pregnancy. Alcohol cravings should be ignored completely due to the increased risk of harm to the developing baby.

If you are struggling to ignore your alcohol cravings during pregnancy, speak with your doctor.

cocktail with carbonated water, alcohol and lime

Additionally, if you are craving sugary foods and carbohydrates, it is important to allow yourself to indulge in these cravings a little bit but avoid consuming large amounts. While carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy, eating excessive amounts of carbohydrates and sugars can lead to unhealthy weight gain. 

Instead, consume fruits and vegetables, adequate amounts of water, and fiber to help you feel full and satisfied without large amounts of sugar. 

Finally, if you are craving non-food items, such as clay, dirt, or paint, it is essential to completely ignore these cravings and speak with your physician, since they may indicate serious underlying conditions. 

I hope this article helped you understand the meaning behind your pregnancy cravings and when you should (and shouldn’t!) ignore them.