Pica is defined as a compulsion to consume nonfood substances. Persons with pica crave items such as dirt, clay, paint chips, plaster, chalk, cornstarch, laundry starch, baking soda, coffee grounds, cigarette ashes, burnt match heads, cigarette butts, and rust. The cause of pica is poorly understood, but this strange behavior is often seen in those who are iron-deficient, particularly pregnant woman, even though none of the craved items contain significant amounts of iron. Pica can be dangerous during pregnancy, since consuming large amounts of some substances may cause nutrient deficiencies, intestinal problems, or lead to toxicity, placing both mother and baby at risk.

SEE ALSO Cravings ; Pregnancy .

Beth Fontenot

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