You might have heard of having strange food cravings during pregnancy, but have you ever heard of actually craving smells too? It really does happen, and it’s even got a medical name.
During pregnancy, we can experience some very odd sensations. This can be down to a few different things, but we can normally blame it on those pesky hormones. From intense anger one moment, to wanting to cry the next. Desperate for a KFC, to suddenly changing your mind and wanting chocolate dipped pickles instead. Pregnancy is quite the roller coaster. When you consider the weird smell cravings some women experience as well, you might begin to wonder what on earth is going on!
Firstly, craving odd non-food related smells during pregnancy is part of a known condition called ‘pica’.
Pica relates to intense non-food cravings to eat as well as smell.
The reason it has a medical name is because it’s so common and it has been noted all over the world. Some women crave the small of dirt, ash, baking soda, plaster, wax, coffee grounds, and some even like the smell of cigarette butts. There is no rhyme or reason to it, and there is no particular trend towards any one smell, it is just what that women wants to sniff at, at that particular time.
The word ‘pica’ is actually Latin, and it means ‘magpie’. You might wonder how pica and magpie relate to each other, but a magpie is a scavenger bird and they will eat anything at all – literally anything. Whilst we’re not comparing pregnant women to scavengers, the idea of wanting to sniff (or eat) all manner of things, is where the similarity is.
Have you experienced pica? The first time it happens you might be a little taken aback, and wonder if there is something wrong with you. There isn’t, and there is no actual concrete reason why some women experience it and others don’t.
Many health professionals claim that it is down to a mixture of psychological changes during pregnancy (thank those hormones once more), biochemical issues, and some cultural issues too. You might experience it, you might not; you might experience it mildly, or you might experience it at an intense level. It’s really hit and miss, but the one thing to take away from it, is that it’s normal and nothing to worry about.
Well, as normal as wanting to sniff wax ever is!
A List of 35 Weird or Unusual Smell Cravings Reported by Moms-to-be
- Pine disinfectant
- Burnt Coal
- Cut Grass
- Cardboard Boxes
- Dryer Sheets
- New Shoes
- Air Conditioner
- Boat Exhaust
- Carpet Samples
- Cigarette Butts
- Vacuum Cleaner
- Dishwasher Tablets
- Cotton Wool Balls
- Dish washing Sponge
- Cigarette Smoke
- Kitchen Cleaner Spray
- Wet Towels
- Cat Food
- Garage Walls
- Road Chippings
- Tissue Paper
Is Pica Caused by Iron Deficiency?
One possible explanation for pica is a lack of iron during pregnancy. You don’t have to be a pregnancy expert to know that many women experience iron deficiency during pregnancy, even when they don’t have any type of anemia when not pregnant. The actual proof of this is yet to be cemented because most of the items which women crave the smell of don’t contain iron anyway. So why would the body crave them?
It really is a bit of a mystery.
The reason this idea came to fruition is because iron deficiency anemia occasionally has a symptom which leads the person to crave ice. Some women crave the smell of ice, and there may be a link there, although certainly not proven in any way.
Does the Craving Mean You Should Consume These Items?
No, no, and no again!
There is an old adage that the body craves what it wants, but in this case you should ignore that adage and simply stick to sniffing it (provided it is not poisonous to sniff).
Consuming these types of non-food items can be dangerous to your body, because they’re things we shouldn’t be eating anyway. If you’re craving ice, of course, it’s not going to hurt you to suck on an ice cube or two, but other than that, do not consume anything non-food related that you’re craving.
If you find that these cravings are really strong, hard to ignore, or you’re simply worried about why you’re having them, there is no harm in talking to your midwife or doctor about it. Don’t be worried about embarrassing yourself. They have heard it all before, and probably cravings that are ten times weirder than what yours. Talking about the issue and gaining support can take your mind away from it, and it could even be that your craving then begins to dissipate, and possibly even disappear.
Whilst these smell cravings aren’t usually dangerous it’s always a good idea to get checked out if you’re worried. There is a very small chance that it could link to an underlying psychological problem such as OCD and that is always worth addressing before it worsens. In the general run of things however, craving weird smells could simply be just one of those unexplainable and strange pregnancy symptoms which we simply have to put up with for a few months.
Look at it this way, if anything else, it will give you something to talk about when you’re old and grey over the dinner table – ‘remember the time when I was pregnant with our Sarah, and I wanted to sniff mud covered soapy sponges?’ That will certainly be one to tell the grand kids!