Friday, March 12, 2010

PICA in pregnancy. AKA, I want to eat laundry detergent

Pica is when you want to eat non-nutritive, not-food things. It is also a unit of typographical measurement.

But today we're talking about wanting to eat laundry detergent. Not measuring typography. So if you came here today interested in typography, you should probably go now. Come back later. I'm sure we'll get to that next week.

Some of you know that during my first two pregnancies I experience a strong urge to eat laundry detergent. Yeah, I know that sounds all funny but it's NOT. I'm not into self-regulation (did I mention I ate an entire box of Girl Scout cookies in three days? And it seriously wasn't even hard). I don't practice self-discipline. Or deny myself things I want. But you just can't eat laundry detergent. It's just not cool.

The first time around, the doctor actually asked if I had the desire to eat strange things and it really caught me off guard. Oh. So this is a thing, then? A thing that happens to people? Well, he says, it can be a sign of iron deficiency. Ah, then I suppose we'll be measuring my iron levels. Not so much. He just advised me to eat more peanut butter. Which, FYI, actually doesn't have that much iron it it so that was just weird advice. Maybe he was shilling for Jif.

So I just dealt with it. I sniffed detergent like a coke addict. I chewed on freshly laundered washcloths. I chewed gum.

And then I had the baby and it went away.

But then I got pregnant AGAIN. I hoped that it wouldn't happen this time around. But, then, around 26 weeks, the smell of detergent became less fresh-scent and more DELICIOUS! I told my doctor and she was all, yeah, well, that happens sometimes. When I referenced "my doctor" there if might have been misleading. See, my diagnosis of gestational diabetes meant I no longer had a doctor. I was treated by a clinic, not a specific doctor. I had a different doctor every week. Which might have something to do with why nobody ever told me that my iron levels were low. I got my records after the fact and it was right there in my blood work.

So, again, I just dealt with it. Then I had the baby and it went away.

This time around, I'm being more proactive about things. Also, it was a little worse this time. I was obsessed with the thought of eating detergent. I would lie in bed and think about it. Fantasize about eating it.

So I did a little research. The internet seemed to think that an iron supplement should be tried, EVEN IF MY IRON LEVELS WERE NORMAL. So I asked my doctor if that was okay and she said, well, your iron levels are normal, but I guess it won't hurt.

I started taking the iron supplement. It took 6 days, but then, wow. The thoughts started to fade and the desire was much more manageable. It took the need for laundry detergent from like a nine, down to a two or three. Which is a lot better. My LIFE is BETTER.

Because of doctors.

Wait. That's not true. The doctors didn't care.

So the lesson for the day is that if you want to eat things that are not food, take an iron supplement.

Also, doctors are dumb.


  1. This is one of my favorites. Haha, doctors are jerks who don't care about you! oh wait. That's sad.

    Anyway, whenever you talk about eating laundry detergent, I think, "Yeah, I can see that. The texture and the smell...that would be interesting to do." And I get a bit of in impulse to do it. I mean, it's not bad, but I'm not pregnant either.

    Just so you know your kind of crazy is either catching or genetic. Unless you are talking about the liquid kind, I can't get behind that, I'm talking crunchy dry powder-y kind.

  2. I am 8 months pregnant and sometimes wake in the morning and crave laundry soap. it doesn't matter what kind! I find myself seeing a bottle/box and can't help pondering the taste of.that specific brand. My blood levels have been checked and am fine. however, do try to control these urges because it is indeed concentrated soap and probably is toxic!!

  3. I am currently 8 1/2 months pregnant as well and came across your blog after admonishing myself for sniffing various brands of laundry detergent that we have in the house. Funny thing though, I want to smell the liquid and I want to eat the powdered- wouldnt have it any other way.

  4. Pine Sol would get me. I would sniff that. But the dry stuff made my mouth water. Now that I'm not pregnant, and thus, not craving, it's weird even to think about. But at the time it was such a powerful urge.

  5. I'm 38 weeks pregnant & I dream about the smell & taste of "Surf" liquid laundry detergent (UK brand); want to swish it round my mouth! Would also like to crunch the powder version & make it all frothy... Wow I do sound nuts! I also discovered a lust for our "pine fresh" toilet cleaner & I actually ENJOY scrubbing the toilet - hearing that scratchy, frothy sound & smelling those toxic chemicals! Apparently normal bloods but hey, we're all different right? As much as I revel in the euphoric state of bliss whilst sticking my nose into a bottle of Surf, I lol forwars the the passing of this craze! Perhaps I'll go sniff the new bike tyres in Toys R Us now...

    1. Did you find that your cravings went away when had the baby? I did, and for that I am grateful! Hope you're getting some sleep over there :)

  6. Do excuse the spelling errors, my phone likes to correct me sometimes with very helpful suggestions!

  7. Hi there,
    Thank you so much for posting. I am 34 week pregnant and for the last 2 weeks I been wanting to eat it and was scared to say anything to my husband. I was so overwhelmed and tired of dealing with the anxiety around wanting to eat detergent I told him. He gave me your gross and crazy face and that was the end of it. I felt so helpless that I shared by struggle with him and he did not care or know how to handle it... so I google "eating laundry detergent while pregnant" and came to your blog. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR WRITING THIS...

    1. RIGHT? Nobody understands. They think it is gross, or they think it is funny. But it doesn't feel funny. On the plus side, it does go away soon after the baby comes, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Taking the iron supplements helped me, but so did chewing on washcloths and chewing gum. Hopefully, you find a coping mechanism for getting through the next 6 weeks.

  8. Hey Beth, I'd love to talk more about this with you since I'm working on a TV doc series about childbirth stories. You can reach me through the website if you click on my name.

  9. I'm 81/2 months pregnant and I crave laundry detergent mainly downy first it was just the dyer sheets but then I bout the liquid downy boiled it on stove smelled it then once it cools and dries up into this wax type of substance I find myself scraping it out pot and ducking on it I don't swallow it I just it the taste in my mouth the earge is unbareable