Food cravings in pregnancy: Preliminary evidence for a role in excess gestational weight gain

Appetite. 2016 Oct 1;105:259-65. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.04.040. Epub 2016 May 20.


Currently, more than 50% of American women gain an excessive amount of weight during pregnancy as per guidelines established by the Institute of Medicine and American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology. This excess gestational weight gain (GWG) is associated with health complications in both mothers and children. This study sought to examine the hypothesized causal role of cravings in excess GWG. Pregnant women were recruited from a local hospital (n = 40) and via posts on pregnancy-related websites (n = 43). Weight (current and pregravid) and height data were collected to calculate body mass index (BMI) and recommended versus excess GWG. Participants completed the Food Craving Inventory (FCI), which quantifies "frequency" of cravings for specific foods and the likelihood of "giving in" to these cravings. Overweight/obesity prior to pregnancy was reported by 40.5%-57.9% of participants. At the time of survey completion, 19.5% of online and 31.6% of hospital respondents had gained more than the recommended amount of weight for their stage of gestation. All women had experienced and given in to at least one craving, with cravings for "sweets" and "fast foods" being most common. Craving "frequency" accounted for a substantial portion of variance in excess GWG (25.0% in the online sample and 32.0% in respondents recruited at the hospital). Frequency of "giving in" to cravings accounted for 35.0% of the variance in excess GWG in the online sample only. Findings suggest that both craving frequency and consumption of craved foods may increase risk of excess GWG, providing support for the development of interventions targeting cravings in pregnancy as potentially modifiable determinants of energy intake.

Keywords: Craving; Gestational; Obesity; Overweight; Pregnancy; Weight gain.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Craving*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet, Healthy / psychology
  • Female
  • Food Preferences* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • New York / epidemiology
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Overweight / etiology*
  • Overweight / psychology
  • Patient Compliance / psychology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications / etiology*
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology
  • Prenatal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Weight Gain