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J Am Diet Assoc. 1991 Jan;91(1):34-8.

Pica practices of pregnant women.

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Center for Health Services Research in Primary Care, Veterans Administration Medical Center, Durham, NC.


This report summarizes current knowledge about pica practices during pregnancy through a systematic review of the literature for the period 1950 through 1990. Pica behavior was considered in terms of its prevalence, risk factors, clinical profile, and effect on pregnancy outcome. Data on pica practices by pregnant women are limited and inconclusive but reveal several interesting relationships. The prevalence of pica among pregnant women in high-risk groups declined between the 1950s and the 1970s but now remains steady, affecting about one fifth of high-risk women. Women at high risk of pica are more likely to be black, to live in rural areas, and to have a positive childhood and family history of pica. The clinical picture of the disorder during pregnancy is not well described. The evidence suggests that pica during pregnancy results in anemia, but it is not definitive. Pica also has been associated with maternal and perinatal mortality. We conclude that the behavior is more prevalent than commonly believed, shows no sign of further decline, and may have serious effects, particularly anemia, on mother and infant. Dietetic practitioners who counsel pregnant women should ask questions about pica when they conduct nutrition assessments of their clients.

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