It is not unusual for women to experience cravings during pregnancy. Many women are gripped by an overwhelming desire to eat pickled onions and ice cream at some time in their pregnancy, so chocolate cravings are not so strange. Most cravings are considered completely ‘normal’, whilst others are not. There are some pregnant women who have a compulsive urge to eat non-food substances such as earth, coal, clay, chalk and soap1. This urge is known as ‘pica’. Pica can be potentially harmful and anyone experiencing urges to eat such things should contact your GP for help. Cravings and pica in pregnancy are thought by some to be a kick back to the times when food was not readily available (as for many in the developing world now), and it is nature’s way of ensuring that the pregnant women eats the nutrients that she is deficient in2. However, this may not justify the continual craving for one particular type of food. If this were true, it may be that you are deficient in magnesium, vitamin Bs and iron, which are readily available in particularly dark chocolate, and your craving would be to rectify anaemia or a vitamin B deficiency, possibly.
Chocolate and sweet food cravings are not unusual and could be related to the huge hormonal changes, similar to those experienced prior to menstruation and during the menopause. This theory, however, does not explain the craving for sour, salty or spicy foods. However, whatever the reason and the craving, as long as you’re not craving coal or chalk, a little indulgence in moderation will do no harm, but giving in completely to a pregnancy full of chocolate may cause a deficiency in other nutrients and a dramatic weight gain due to the high calorific intake.
One more note regarding the eating of chocolate in pregnancy, it is ‘supposed’ to make for happier infants3. This may be due to an increase in phenylethylamine present in chocolate (also present in larger quantities in tomatoes and fruit), or it may be due to happier mothers who have indulged.
1Mikkelsen TB, Andersen AN,; Olsen SF (2006) Pica in pregnancy in a privileged population: myth or reality. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, Oct, Vol 85, 10, 1265-1266(2),Taylor and Francis Ltd
2Rainville AJ (1998) Pica Practices of Pregnant Women are Associated with Lower Maternal Hemoglobin Level at Delivery. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Mar, Vol 98, 3, 293-296(4), Elsevier
3Raikkonen K, Pesonen AK, Jarvenpaa AL, Strandberg TE (2004) Sweet babies: chocolate consumption during pregnancy and infant temperament at six months. Early Human Development. Feb;76(2):139-45, Department of Psychology, Helsinki, Finland.
76 - Enkin M Keirse MJNC Neilson J Crowther C Duley L Hodnett E Hofmeyr J (2000) A Guide to Effective Care in Pregnancy and Childbirth - 3rd Edn. Oxford University Press, New York p42