embryologist training course

11 oct, 2022

Bizarre cravings in Pregnancy- PICA

“What you crave for; is not always what you can consume”

viru sahastrabuddhi 3 idiots

(Pica- Magpie: a bird known for eating everything that’s food or non-food)

Pica in medical terms is an eating disorder and results in continual eating of non-nutritional substances such as dirt, metal and stones. Stemming from a Latin word Pica (Magpie), is a bird known for eating everything that’s food or non-food. People with pica yearns for non-food items. With Pica, patients habitually crave for ice (Pagophagia), starch, chalk and paste (Resinphagia); soil and clay (Geophagia).

Pica is often common in children, but this condition may develop even during pregnancy. The fight against uncontrollable urge in pregnancy is one tough challenge. The practice of pica is highly prevalent in several African communities.

Can pica lead to iron deficiency or is it the other way around?

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The urge for eating is fine as long as we eat good nutritional food. Yearning to consume non-food substances are signs that our body is seeking additional nourishment. Pica patients often suffer from nutrition and iron deficiency. Pica is not the source but a symptom of iron deficiency.

Based on studies conducted by NCBI, it can be estimated that about 20% of the reported Pica cases account for pregnant women. The estimates may vary as most cases go unnoticed and unreported. Needless to say, such unusual cravings often disappear upon adequate iron supplementation.

Medicos often attribute such unusual cravings to be a signal for other physical ailments or mental health issues triggered due to hormonal imbalances in pregnancy. Extreme low levels of dopamine in brains also prompt pica.

Diagnosis and Treatment

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“The best treatment is early detection”

Early detection of Pica in pregnant women and infants can be possible only with the right training. Reproductive medicine courses are vast and cover a major section dealing with the diagnosis and treatment of bizarre cravings. Besides, reproductive medicine training in India is growing rapidly making way for numerous practices and research.

The diagnosis for Pica involves testing a range of conditions, including sanity tests. A single test cannot substantiate pica. Assiduous screening of such patients and apposite blood test to check the iron and zinc level in addition to examining the patient for infections by conducting barium enema and endoscopy to determine if there is any esophageal or abdominal damage. Often, surgeries are required for restoring injuries in the digestive tract.

Iron and other micronutrient deficiencies in a pregnant woman can be cured with iron supplements and a healthy diet. Addressing nutritional deficiencies takes the edge off menaces and complications concomitant to pica and is vital to maintaining a healthy pregnancy.

Eating non-food items interferes with the nutritional intake of pregnant women, which can lead to malnutrition. Such substances contain toxic elements resulting in a deficiency. However, the condition Pica is rare with well-nourished women. It is necessary that the expectant mother is educated about the ill health effects of pica on her as well as the fetus in all trimesters of pregnancy. The doctor’s advice in such circumstances is crucial, given the condition can have dire consequences if left untreated.

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