Why Pregnant Women Crave Pickles? Food Cravings Explained


Any pregnant woman has heard it. And any woman that wants to get pregnant has heard it as well. Pregnancy brings its own set of rules and food cravings. According to statistics, between 50% and 90% of US women experience food cravings during pregnancy. Today, we will talk about why pregnant women crave pickles.

As you will probably hear during pregnancy, pickles are one of the most common cravings. Why? Well, it is all because of their salty taste and crunchy texture.

What Causes Pregnancy Cravings?

Before we explain pickles, let’s try and explain pregnancy cravings first. They can be caused by several things. Most commonly, those include hormones, heightened sense of smell, heightened sense of taste, nutritional deficiencies, and more.

Cravings usually begin during the first trimester. They peak during the second trimester. Yet, you can also experience them anytime during pregnancy.

So, if you find yourself craving something that makes people around you raise their eyebrows, do not worry, you are not alone.

The Science Behind Pregnancy Cravings

Expecting mothers, mothers that have given birth, and women, in general, have thousands of stories of intense cravings. These stories have been passed down through generations.

For example, you might hear a relative or a friend say, “When I was pregnant, I would think about pickles at 3 am. I would get up in the middle of the night to get some pickles”.

But what is the science behind it? Here are some potential causes and why they make you crave specific foods.



During pregnancy, women experience rapidly changing hormones. This is one explanation for cravings, but research is still sparse about it.

The huge surge in estrogen and progesterone occurs in the first trimester, which is why most cravings happen in the first trimester as well. This is also the time when women experience morning sickness and vomiting. Now you might ask yourself, how can you crave food when you have morning sickness and you vomit? Well, hormones are strange and beautiful at the same time.

During the second trimester, expecting mothers adapt to their elevated hormones, and morning sickness fades out. This is also the time when cravings peak. Some theories say they are a natural response to your body recovering from poor appetite during the first trimester.

Heightened Sensory Perception

We also know that during pregnancy, women experience a significant change in their sensory perceptions. Manifested as a heightened sense of smell and taste, it is completely normal to find usual foods revolting.

And as such, some of your once-hated foods might become staples and favorites. Some theories suggest that sensory changes occur to protect you from potentially toxic foods.

Nutrient Deficiencies

There is one theory that a potential pickle craving is a result of low sodium levels. Nutrient deficiencies are another explanation for your cravings.

But that is a myth, and it says that sodium needs increase alongside blood volume during pregnancy. And as a result, your pickle cravings mean you are low in sodium.

There is no evidence behind this myth. But there is evidence that certain nutrient requirements change during pregnancy. For example, we know that pregnant women need to increase their iron needs to 27mg per day to support fetal development. Needs for folate, iodine, protein, and zinc, also increase.

This has led people to speculate and hypothesize that food cravings are nothing more than a response by your body to deficiencies in certain nutrients.

Cultural Perception Of Cravings

Here is another factor you need to consider. Various cultures approach and perceive food in different ways. Culture plays a strong role in eating habits.

For example, this is why you see pickles as a common pregnancy craving in North America. For comparison, rice is a common food craving for pregnant women in Japan.

Strange Pregnancy Cravings

Besides pickles, women report other cravings. And there is a myth linked to almost every weird food craving during pregnancy.

  • For example, pickles are the most common food craving, and women find themselves reaching for the dill pickles
  • Chocolate is something women reach for when they feel depressed
  • It might seem unusual, but lemons are also reported as a food craving during pregnancy. Some women have found a way to satisfy it by adding lemon to their water, a good way to stay hydrated as well
  • Women also drink soda to ease their morning sickness, and they continue drinking soda well after the first trimester
  • Red meat is rich in iron and protein, and it is no wonder women crave for it
  • Spicy food is another popular option. You may feel so hot that even standing in a freezer will not satisfy it. So, women have turned to spicy food, one that will make their body sweat and naturally bring down the temperature
  • Dairy products like ice cream and yogurt are quite popular, and it is due to calcium deficiency, or you just love ice cream
  • Strange food combinations. During pregnancy, you will see women trying combinations like eggplant on pizza, pickles wrapped in cheese, and more

Health Effects Of Eating Pickles

Here is something you should know, eating pickles during pregnancy has both negative and positive effects on your health. Let’s discuss them, as these potential side effects play a role. We talked about why pregnant women crave pickles, but let’s see what is the effect of that.

Bowl of Pickles

High Sodium Content

Pickles are mostly popular because of their salty and briny flavor. Pickles are high in sodium, which is an essential mineral that helps with fluid balance. However, many people already surpass the World Health Organization‘s recommendation of 2,000mg per day.

So, it is highly unlikely that you crave pickles because of low sodium. High sodium can cause water retention and increase the risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy.

Vitamin Content

One positive of eating pickles during pregnancy is they are a good source of vitamins. Just one dill pickle contains 15% of the daily recommendation for Vitamin K. It is a vitamin that helps with blood clots and keeps the bones strong.

Pickle juice is a good source of Vitamin C.

Is It Safe To Eat Pickles During Pregnancy?

We tried to explain why pregnant women crave pickles. But is it safe to eat them? Well, in moderation, it is safe. Because you get a lot of vitamins from them.

But you should stay away from homemade pickles because oddly enough, homemade pickles have a higher risk of growing harmful bacteria. And that can cause pregnancy complications. According to the CDC, pregnant women are 10 times more likely to get Listeria infection. So, opt for store-bought pickles.

Safety Tips For Consuming Pickles

There is a way to safely consume pickles during pregnancy. Here are some tips you can try.

  • Look for labels that have reduced sodium
  • Chose brands that have less sodium and sugar
  • Stop eating pickles when you are satisfied
  • Shop for store-bought pickles prepared in vinegar. These have been pasteurized to kill all bacteria
  • Follow storage instructions, some might need to be refrigerated after opening to prevent spoilage
  • Always seal your pickle jar securely
  • Use a utensil to pluck pickles from the jar, not your fingers

How To Beat Pregnancy Cravings?

One way to beat pregnancy cravings is to make sure you have a well-balanced diet and meals throughout the day.

For example, make sure to get a balanced breakfast, one that contains protein and carbs. And when cravings hit you hard, try to distract yourself. You can go for a walk, or drink a glass of water.

If you still cannot beat the cravings, make sure to do it in moderation. You do not want to eat a full jar of pickles.

Do They Reveal The Gender?

There is one myth linked with pregnancy pickle cravings. Some women believe it means a certain gender.

For example, the myth is that salty food cravings indicate that you will have a baby boy. But while these guesses are fun, there is no truth in them. Craving pickles or any other salty snacks does not mean you are carrying a baby boy. Stop the baby guessing games and let the medicine do its part.

Whether pregnancy has turned you into a pickle-eating fiend or you just have a craving for them every now and then, rest assured that the cravings are a totally normal and healthy part of the pregnancy experience.

I am a mother, wife, daughter, granddaughter, writer, living in Virginia Beach. I love creativity, ideas, crafts, arts, photography, movies, food, coffee, naps, outdoors. I love to make stuff!