Some health experts have urged pregnant women to report tendencies of pica to their healthcare givers, as its effects could endanger lives of the mother and foetus.
They made the plea in separate interviews in Lagos.
A gynaecologist, Stanley Agboola, said that pica in pregnancy is an eating disorder where there is a craving for mostly non-food substances with little or no nutritional value.
Mr. Agboola said “Pica is an eating disorder, a very common one. It is greatly overlooked and almost not reported by pregnant women.”
The gynaecologist said the disorder can also be seen in both children and pregnant women; and if not handled on time; it can be detrimental to health.
“In pregnancy, this can affect the unborn child. It is true that most times, pregnant women crave for some particular food, this is not pica.
“However, when the craving is persistently for substances such as dirt, chalk, feaces, garbage, charcoal, it is pica and should be reported to the doctor,” he said.
Also, a microbiologist, Caroline Ndulie, said that eating non-food substances could interfere with the absorption of the nutrients of healthy food substances and thereby caused a deficiency.
She said: “Pica cravings may hinder the absorption of food nutrients. This can lead to a deficiency.”
“Some of these non-food items may also contain toxic or parasitic ingredients and lead to poisoning, thereby creating risk factors for the baby, such as learning disabilities and brain damage.
“Bacteria or parasites from dirt or other objects can cause serious infections which can even damage the kidneys or liver,” she said.
A midwife, Anne Effiong, said that the reason why some women develop pica cravings during pregnancy is not exactly known.
“Causes of pica in pregnancy is not exactly known, but medical and health indicators liken it to an iron or calcium deficiency.
“It can also lead to anaemia, malnutrition, intestinal obstructions, infections and constipation. It is essential that pregnant women monitor their iron status along with other vitamin and mineral intake,” she said.
Ms. Effiong said pica may sometimes be a symptom of physical or mental illness.
“Whatever the case, it is advisable that pregnant women tell their healthcare provider about these cravings for one to know the risks involved and how to deal with the cravings,” she said.