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Why can Pica be a Problem for Pregnant Women?

written by: Erin281982 • edited by: jen2008 • updated: 9/6/2010

Why does pica affect pregnant women? Some reasons for why pregnant women will develop pica, why it can be a problem and how they can overcome it.

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    Why can Pica be a Problem for Pregnant Women?

    There is an unusual eating disorder that some pregnant women may experience involving strange cravings for things such as dirt, clay, chalk, toilet paper, ice and even cat litter. This disorder is call pica and while it is not uncommon, if it is not addressed and treated it can cause complications in pregnancy. If the cravings are for things such as ice, many wonder why pica in women, significantly pregnant women can cause problems. Here is a look at why pica can be a problem for pregnant women, why pregnant women may develop it as well as ways they can overcome it.

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    Pica in Women: Why Pregnant Women Will Develop It

    At present time there is no known reason for why pregnant women will develop pica but many studies have proven that women with problems such as nutritional deficiencies or psychological problems may develop pica during pregnancy. Pica in women can also be attributed to cultural practices that believe eating certain things will help "cleanse" the body or even rid it of unwelcome symptoms of pregnancy such as morning sickness. However, most cases of pica in pregnant women can be attributed to the fact that they are deficient in iron or zinc or other important elements it needs. If a pregnant woman has low iron her body may cause her to crave unusual things. Pregnant women may also develop pica if they suffer extreme emotional trauma or those that may be considered mentally disabled. In these cases doctors may pay close attention to the circumstances and surroundings of the pregnant woman as it can be a sign of abuse.
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    Complications of Pica in Pregnant Women

    Why can pica be a problem for pregnant women? There are actually several answers to this question. Pica can cause a number of alarming health problems that will not only affect the pregnant woman but her unborn child as well. One complication that may occur in pregnant women who have developed pica and who consume things such as rocks or hairballs is bowel obstruction. Women may find themselves extremely constipated and find their bowels become infected or inflamed. Another complication that can arise in pregnant women with pica is lead poisoning. If the pregnant woman resorts to eating items such as clay or paint she runs the risk of getting lead poisoning which may lead to not only her death but the death of her unborn baby as well. Other complications that may arise out of pica in pregnant women can include but are not limited to a parasite infection from eating things such as dirt and soil to damaging ones teeth and mouth. Sadly pica in pregnant women may also result in complications to the baby. When a pregnant woman gives into these strange cravings she can actually deprive her baby of getting the real vitamins and nutrients he or she needs to thrive. Common complications babies may face include low birth weight, pregnant women going into labor early or even the baby being stillborn.
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    Treating Pica in Pregnant Women

    If a pregnant woman suspects she may have developed pica there are ways to treat it. Generally doctors will first run some tests to determine if the pregnant woman has low iron levels or is deficient in zinc. If psychological issues are suspected they may recommend the patient to a psychologist who can determine if they are under extreme mental duress or if there are any signs of abuse. Treatment for pica may include a number of different methods. Common treatments include the doctor advising the patient to take extra nutritional supplements such as extra iron tablets or prenatal vitamins. In more extreme cases doctors may prescribe certain medications that can curb cravings and help one deal with stress. For those who are mentally or emotionally handicapped doctors may have them undergo therapy and counseling sessions to help them overcome the cravings.

    Sources: http://www.myoptumhealth.com/portal/ADAM/item/Pica, http://www.pregnancy-info.net/pica.html