Mmmmm, pica

A pregnant British woman “has told how she has developed a ‘bizarre craving’ for eating her local newspaper,” reports Orange News U.K.. Ann Curran, 35, of Dundee snacks on copies of the Dundee Evening Telegraph. She says it is the ‘only newsprint with the proper flavour’ and that she ‘stashes shredded copies in her purse for emergency snacks. She added: ‘If you shredded up lots of different bits of newspaper, I would know exactly which one was the Evening Telegraph.”


Nope, it’s called pica. Which is defined as the persistent and compulsive cravings to eat nonfood items for a period of at least one month at an age that would be developmentally inappropriate. (So, if you can say, “pass me that yummy bucket of sand”, you’re probably too old to be eating it.)

It is actually quite common in pregnant women and the cravings can range from dirt, clay, burnt matches, stones, charcoal, mothballs, ice, cornstarch, toothpaste, soap, sand, plaster, coffee grounds, baking soda, and sweet, delicious cigarette ashes.

Of course no one knows for sure why this happens, but it is thought to be linked to a iron deficiency and it’s your body’s attempt to obtain vitamins or minerals that are missing in your normal diet.

Obviously this can get dangerous. After all, some of these items would be dowright toxic and snacking on a bag of rocks sprinkled with dirt isn’t going to go unnoticed at the dinner table, so it isn’t always something you give into like a tub of ice-cream.

Most sites recommend you get your iron levels checked. They also suggest that you make sure your cravings aren’t poisonous or potentially full of parasites (thanks for the tip), and that you don’t interrfere with your regular food consumption (like protien, veggies and kettle corn) – as some proffessionals wonder if often the iron deficiency is caused by the pica instead of the other way around.

I didn’t find many suggestions to curb your cravings. Chewing gum seemed the most popular but I don’t know how great a replacement that is if you want to eat the contents of an ash tray. The other suggestion was to have a friend stop you if you think you’re going to give into a craving. I can just hear the call at work, “No Kathryn, it’s not worth it. Don’t eat the coffee grounds and toothpaste, you’ll regret it!”

What about you? Did you crave anything weird? If you’re too busy eating the gravel in the driveway to comment I can wait.

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  • I was literally just telling my fiance tonight that for a few days now, I have had this urge, or craving not to eat, but play with corn starch. I want to feel it on my hands, the texture of it on my skin and fingers lol it’s like a bone deep itch! It’s the strangest thing and about a week ago, my doctor told me my iron levels were low. I never made the connection until I just read this article! Def. going to pick up my iron pills tomorrow… I don’t want to start craving to eat it haha…

  • Ice. I crave all the ice! But I know it is super bad for my teeth, and, well, I have this fancy Vitamix blender…so I’ve started filling it with ice and grinding it to powder, and eating that. I can "crunch" it but it is basically like Hawaiian shave ice, so no harm done.

    I did come back pretty anemic, and once I started on a different prenatal with more iron, the craving does seem to be subsiding – but dang it, I LIKE my new fancy snack!

  • I also craved ice and sucking on things, but I found a "healthy" solution that seemed to satisfy my need: popsicles. I would eat about 8 to 10 popsicles a day. I bought fresh fruit like peaches, strawberries, etc and pureed them and froze them in the little Tupperware popsicle molds. I also bought a lot of applesauce and jello to make popsicles. It worked for me! 🙂

  • I craved the smell of Gasoline, I never wanted to consume it but man did I love getting gas, it was like a pleasant aroma like cinnamon or pumpkin is to me normally. I haven't had that with this pregnancy.

  • I craved ice like crazy so they checked my iron levels which were low and prescribed a supplement but it still hasn't changed my new found love of ice. The doctors decided that it wasn't a big deal because it is just water but it made me wonder if ice really belongs on the list

  • My mom craved ashes when she was pregnant with my little sister. I crave foam, like the eggshell mattress topper type. So bizarre, but I can't help it. Iron levels were checked and are normal, but I still crave it. Haven't actually eaten any, mainly because there is none in the house.

  • Sharpies – and markers in general. No desire to eat, but I wanted to huff markers – the more 'toxic' smelling the better. I substituted with strong peppermint oil to deal with it. Thankfully my workplace has an anti-voc policy, so all of our work markers were non-toxic.

  • i have been craving corn starch baby powder like crazzzyyy. I did when I was little but I obviously grew out of that. now im constantly smelling it to keep me from devouring it, but i will have a few licks here and there. I havent dared to tell my boyfriend he would be so angry.

  • I actually had pica at a time when I wasn't pregnant, and it was definitely caused by anemia as proven by a blood test as well as the symptoms disappearing as soon as I started taking iron supplements. For me, it was toothpaste, lemon juice, and hot peppers. To this day, if I start to crave any of those things, I know I need to up my iron intake.

    By the way, this was AFTER I told one doctor of my toothpaste craving and he shrugged it off as nothing – I had to get very anemic and see a second doctor to finally get diagnosed. Doctors don't know all!

  • Ice cubes. All ice cubes, all the time.

    This is my third pregnancy and I had never even come across the concept of pica as it related to iron deficiency. Then my awesome midwife started reading my blog and figured it out. Glad it's not anything else, and at least it's water intake, right?

  • Crazy story lol..i'm currently 37 wks and haven't had any real crazy cravings. Maybe just root beer…all.the.time i want it. Your blog is great! I even like the name lol

  • Thank gawd my PICA manifested itself as an ice cube fetish, but it was certainly the result of an iron deficiency. The moment I went on iron supplements, the PICA went away. Although now that you mention it, those fireplace ashes look mighty tasty…

  • I love your web site/ blog. It really brightens my day, and makes me laugh. I'm sitting at 38 wks…March 7th can't get here soon enough. I don't have pica, but wanted to send a shout out to you Ms. Pregnant Chicken for helping to lighten up my day. Especially when I'm feeling particularly heavy and big! 🙂

  • Ice, ice, and more ice, with all 3 pregnancies. I actually visibly wore my teeth down (well, visible to my dentist, to whom I say, "Then get your face out of my mouth."). I knew it was terrible for my teeth, but I couldn't stop. Crunching nearly drove my husband to drink. My obgyn said the iron thing was debatable & not to worry about it, but the hematologist said I was deficient & to take 3 iron tablets/day, though he admitted his preggo wife was anemic so he might just be paranoid. So who knows? It always goes away after the baby pops out.

  • I had a simillar thing to Krista. Mine was fabric softner. I couldn't get enough of the smell. It had to be the spring fresh scented one. I would put extra loads of washing on with double the quantities of softner to make the clothes smell extra strong! I would often get a towel out of the cupboard so I could smell it while I was watching tv at night. My replacement for chocolate I guess as I didn't crave that. The cravings were crazy strong. Streoonger than any other craving I've ever had. I was told it's much more common if your expecting a baby girl.

  • 2 out of 3 of my pregnancys, i went through a hard battle of craving PINESOL!!! Anytime i smelled it, it would make my mouth water. Of course i sustained from actually drinking it, but my house constantly smelled of it due to the fact that id find any excuse at all for a reason to fill up my cleaning bucket with water and pinsol. After speaking to my doctor, she checked my iron levels, which were disasterously low. I ended up having to take prescription Iron and Vit c ( You need vit c to absorb iron ) throughout both pregnancys

  • I've had pica my entire life. I eat paper. The cravings come and go, and they've been significantly less during pregnancy. There were times in elementary school when I could easily eat a couple of sheets of computer paper or notebook paper in a day. It hasn't been that bad in a very long time. I've had my iron and other blood levels tested many times, but everything's normal. I think it was probably a sign of something physical when I was very young, but it has since become just a psychological habit. The doctors all say it's nothing to be worried about, so I don't worry!

  • I haven't had anything weird like that, but my sister had pica, and she wanted to lick the sidewalks. She even boiled and scrubbed a small rock so she could suck on it. I think the cravings went away when she started taking a prenatal vitamin.

  • Nothing too weird but the way I did it was, I craved ice which I was told later was a sign of low iron levels. I de-iced that freezer several times, I would just stand with the freezer door open and knock off chunks of ice and go to town! At the time it was wonderful but now I feel kinda silly, oh well.

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