Food cravings, aversions and pica among pregnant women in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Tanzan J Health Res. 2009 Jan;11(1):29-34.


Food cravings, aversions and pica are common during pregnancy and may have a significant input on pregnancy progress and outcome. A study was carried out to determine the frequency and duration of pronounced dietary cravings, aversions and pica during pregnancy among 204 pregnant and lactating women attending two health facilities in Dar es Salaam City, Tanzania. Nausea and vomiting were reported by 82.8% of all women of which 43.2% experienced severe nausea alone, 9.5% severe vomiting alone and 35.5% experienced severe vomiting and nausea. Mild cases of each of the symptoms either occurring alone or both of them occurring together were also reported. Both behaviours were observed more in <3 months of pregnancy. The proportions of women with dietary cravings, aversions, and pica were 73.5%, 70.1% and 63.7% of all women respectively. More women (70.1%) experienced both food cravings and aversions than either symptom alone. Foods craved most were meat (23.3%), mangoes (22.7%), yoghurt (20.0%) oranges (20.0%), plantain (15.3%) and soft drinks (13.3%). Foods avoided most were rice (36.4%), meat (36.4%) and fish (30.8%). Eggs, beans, tea and stiff porridge were also avoided. Reasons given for avoiding foods were unpleasant smell/taste (10.3%), to reduce nausea (11.8%), no particular reason (58.3%) and dislike by foetus (belief) (3.9%). Pica was experienced by 63.7%% of the women and soil, ice and ash were the most commonly non-food substances eaten. The frequency of nausea and vomiting was highest in the early months of pregnancy and most women experienced the symptoms during morning hours. Craving in most women was more intense in the first trimesters. Most women craved for meat and sour and savoury foods, and avoided rice, meat and fish. Soil consumption was the pica observed in most women. Since aversions and cravings are closely linked to dietary intake of pregnant woman understanding these behaviours is important in addressing maternal nutrition.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Food Preferences*
  • Humans
  • Morning Sickness / epidemiology
  • Morning Sickness / psychology
  • Pica / epidemiology*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology
  • Prevalence
  • Tanzania / epidemiology
  • Urban Population
  • Young Adult