What’s the first thing that comes to mind when the word “craving” is mentioned anywhere? If you’re anything like me, you’ll have answered “chocolate”! Other people may answer “fast food”, while other answers might be related to smoking cigarettes because of the addiction to nicotine.
But, have you ever heard of ice cravings? No, not ice cream cravings – ice cravings. Yes, this is the real deal, and it’s more common than you might think it is, especially during pregnancy.
If you’ve been pregnant at least once before, then you know from first hand experience that cravings happen very frequently throughout pregnancy, but craving ice is not something you would ever think is normal – let alone common.
If you seemingly enjoy eating and crunching away at ice cubes during pregnancy and crave it at random times but aren’t exactly sure what’s causing this, read on to find out why this might happening to you and many other moms-to-be out there.
Why Do Pregnant Women Crave Ice?
It’s believed that the unusual cravings women get to chew on ice or drink icy beverages during pregnancy, commonly referred to as Pagophagia1, is because of a condition called pica.
Pica is defined as the craving to eat non food items and substances during pregnancy, such as clay, plaster, chalk and glue (just to name a few).
Even though pica is a condition that could affect people from both genders and of any age, it’s most commonly observed in childhood and pregnancy.
1) Iron Deficiency
Many studies have found a correlation between iron deficiency and cases of pica in individuals2. This leads many experts to believe that individuals with iron deficiency are more likely than others to experience ice cravings, in addition to cravings for many other non nutritive substances as well.
Examples of such other non nutritive substances you might crave during pregnancy because of pica are clay, paper and dirt.
Don’t panic just yet, though, because it’s not always a nutrient deficiency that triggers these ice cravings in – or outside – the context of pregnancy.
To get a certain answer about whether or not it’s iron deficiency (or any other nutrient deficiency) that’s causing your pagophagia (i.e ice cravings), undergo a blood test – the results will then give you a definitive answer.
The medical professionals you’re working with for the blood test will obviously know what they’ll want to get checked to diagnose a case of iron deficiency, but just for the sake of “doing your homework to the fullest extent”, ask that the blood test you’re undergoing also shows the levels of ferritin that you have. Ferritin is the protein that stores iron in the body3.
If it turns out that you do have iron deficiency, your doctor will almost always find out about that during your first prenatal visit. They will then and there let you know of any supplementation you should be taking to make up for this deficiency, as well as the dosages required.
Another checkup is usually requested in the middle of your first trimester to see how things are improving and whether or not any tweaks/changes should be made.
2) Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
In many cases, pica is not caused by iron deficiency or any other nutrient deficiency in the body – it’s rather caused by an obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Note from Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN: “Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental and emotional disorder where you have overwhelming thoughts that lead to behaviors, like eating unusual substances, excessive orderliness, or fear of germs4.”
3) Morning Sickness
Oftentimes, it’s neither a mineral deficiency nor OCD, it’s just your morning sickness begging for some help.
When you’re feeling nauseous because of morning sickness that’s caused by all these pregnancy-related hormonal changes your body goes through at this stage, ice can make you feel better.
This is especially useful when you’re the type of person that doesn’t usually look forward to drinking water because you’re put off by the way it smells or tastes.
If you can’t be friends with a glass of water outside the context of a pregnancy, you can only imagine how difficult it’s going to be to drink water while going through morning sickness.
No matter how slowly or little you seem to sip from that glass of water, it just doesn’t go down well.
In this case, and if you’re not put off by the smell or taste of ice cubes, this is a good way to stay hydrated without feeling nauseous and triggering a vomiting episode. Ice is, after all, nothing more than frozen water.
Another condition that many pregnant mothers-to-be go through during these 9 months is heartburn, also commonly referred to as acid reflux5.
Most pregnant women notice that their heartburn is at its peak towards the later stages of their pregnancy, especially during their third trimester.
While it’s always advisable that you talk to your doctor about any acid indigestion you go through during pregnancy, especially if you plan on taking medication for soothing purposes, ice is often a wonderful natural alternative that makes the discomfort go away.
5) Coping With Stress
The reality is, pregnancy is a very stressful time for many moms-to-be, both on a physical level and mental level. One way many people are used to coping with stress is through eating and chewing away on food – or, in this case, ice.
6) Beating The Heat
If it tends to get really hot where you live because of high temperatures, then the fact that you’re pregnant doesn’t really cool you down.
On the contrary, pregnancy tends to make you feel the heat even more than it really is, due to the increase in blood volume a mother-to-be experiences during this phase.
So, you might simply be craving ice just to cool the temperature down a little bit when it starts to feel way too uncomfortably hot for your liking.
Should I Be Worried About My Ice Cravings During Pregnancy?
As long as these ice cravings aren’t a result of iron deficiency of any sort of anemia, and as long as you’re keeping things under control and are not consuming an excessive amount (no eating trays and trays of ice on a daily basis, ladies!), there’s likely not much that you should be worried about.
When eating ice to satisfy cravings, you’re not faced with the same risks you would be faced with had you been eating dirt, clay, paper and/or starch – all non edible stuff that could really cause some serious gastrointestinal problems.
Is It Safe For Me To Eat Ice During Pregnancy?
As far as pregnancy is concerned, YES – it is safe for you to consume ice during pregnancy and this will not cause any harm to the baby you’re carrying at the time.
However, there’s other stuff that you should be worried about.
Whether that be through crunching ice cubes or drinking icy fluids, you should not be consuming ice in excess during your pregnancy because it will backfire on you.
I know what might be going through your head right now – “but wait! Ice is calorie free! It literally has zero calories! Munching away at it makes me feel satisfied and keeps me full, and now you want to take that away from me too?!”.
Here’s why you should be careful.
1) Tooth Problems
Regardless of whether you’re pregnant or not, excessive crunching on ice cubes is hard on your teeth and increases the chances of damaging your teeth enamel, which promotes decay and tooth sensitivity to both hot and cold food – yikes!
Whichever way you look at this, human teeth were just not designed to handle all that hard chomping down on ice cubes.
Your dentist will surely not appreciate you chomping away on all that ice. Or would they? Considering you’re the one paying the bills and that’s how they earn their livelihood!
Instead of crunching ice cubes with your teeth, let the ice melt on your tongue instead.
2) Aggravating An Already Sore Throat
Also, if you have a sore throat during pregnancy (which is very common) and expose it to anything ice, you’ll only be aggravating that condition and making the irritation worse off than it already is – not soothing it.
Pregnant mothers-to-be with iron deficiencies may seek to eat ice in order to soothe their sore tongue, but solving that problem and aggravating a sore throat is not the solution.
Excessive consumption of ice during pregnancy because of giving in to cravings may lead to malnutrition, which puts both your health, as well as that of your developing baby, at great risk.
If you’re relying on chomping on ice to keep hunger at bay without taking in excessive calories, this is not what you should be doing now that you’re eating for two.
Now only will you be preventing your body from getting important nutrients it needs to get from a healthy diet, you’ll also be preventing your baby from getting important nutrients it needs to properly grow and develop at this crucial phase.
So, make sure your diet is in check and that any ice you do consume during pregnancy is not putting following an adequate diet on the back burner.
Now is not the time for you to be thinking about caloric deficits and losing weight, pregnancy is a time you should be eating for two and making sure your baby gets all the calories and nutrients worth they need for proper development.
During your second and third trimesters, you should be taking in between 300 and 400 extra calories a day to meet your baby’s growth needs.
Last but not least, and this is true regardless of whether you’re eating/chewing on ice cubes during pregnancy or outside the context of a pregnancy, if you’re not very aware of the pieces of ice you’re chewing on and they’re large enough in size, you could possibly choke on them.
A Note About Icy Beverages
Just because it’s safe for you to consume ice during pregnancy without putting the health and well being of the baby you’re carrying at risk does not mean you’re free to consume any icy beverage you desire.
Keep it strictly to pure water, whether that’s putting an ice cube in a glass of water and drinking it that way or crunching an ice cube (with something else other than your teeth) and eating it that way.
You’re best staying away from any sugary drink, soft drink, caffeinated beverage, alcoholic beverage, etc .. that you might be thinking of having with ice to satisfy your craving during pregnancy.
When Will My Ice Cravings Go Away?
In most cases of ice cravings during pregnancy, this urge tends to go away on its own after giving birth to the baby.
- What Is Pagophagia? Causes, Treatment, and More. https://www.healthline.com/health/pagophagia. Accessed June 20, 2019.
- Pagophagia in iron deficiency anemia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24850454. Accessed June 20, 2019.
- Serum ferritin levels and their significance in normal full-term pregnant women. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2887463. Accessed June 20, 2019.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml. Accessed June 20, 2019.
- 12 Ways to Soothe Heartburn in Pregnancy. https://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20527766,00.html. Accessed June 20, 2019.