Some pregnant women may develop a certain tendency to eat uncooked food like raw rice. This behaviour, known as pica, has been described in a paper published in 2012 in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine as follows:
Pica is defined as the persistent eating of non-nutritive substances for at least one month. The behavior must be developmentally inappropriate, not culturally sanctioned, sufficiently severe to merit clinical attention, and not occurring during the course of another mental disorder.
The researchers of that paper concluded that pica might be the “manifestation of obsessive compulsive disorder during pregnancy”.
Pica exists in many forms; the condition pertaining to the inclination towards the consumption of great amounts of starch (like raw rice) is known as amylophagia.
But, is it harmful to the pregnant woman and her child?
Medical literature mentions both positive and negative effects of the phenomenon pica. But, the health consequences are poorly understood.
Not enough data is available to test for theories relating to pica: the methodologies are limited and not enough focus has been dedicated to the subject. The existing research works on the topic have even yielded contradictory reports.
Pregnant women should however be educated of the potential hazards on themselves and their foetuses. While the evidence is not conclusive, some authors have mentioned nutritional deficiencies associated with pica. Some even purported that anaemia might be a consequence of pica. Effects on the foetus might be prematurity, low birth weight, irritability, and decreased fetal head circumference.
But, it should be borne in mind that nothing is conclusive; more research should be done in this area to generate significant results.