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I used to sprinkle Kerosene in my house, the smell was… Weird cravings Kenyan women have during pregnancy and how they handle them


Due to hormonal changes and nutrient deficiency, cravings during pregnancy is pretty normal among most women. However, some women report powerful desires for some very strange things, such as soil, soap, polystyrene, charcoal, chalk and even cigarette ash. It’s downright ridiculous!

Take the case of one James Kuria, a city resident and a first-time father. During his live-in girlfriend’s pregnancy, Kuria went through hell. He says she turned into a dramatic irritant, making all sorts of demands every now and then in the name of cravings.

He, for instance, got the shock of his life when she woke him up in the dead of the night demanding sugarcane.

“I had heard about women and cravings during pregnancy, but I was shocked when she woke me up and began telling me how much she craved chewing sugarcane. I found the request so weird, I just could help but laugh my head off,” chuckles Kuria.

Moved to sister’s house

He proceeds to add that throughout her pregnancy, she kept demanding all sorts of food and non-food stuff, and at some point, she became too much.

“Every week, she had an odd craving. There’s a time she wanted French fries from Sanford (a popular eatery in Nairobi) and nowhere else.  Then there’s this time she demanded very cold sour milk...my friend, she made demands of all sorts,” he narrated.

He says that the dung hit the fan at some point when she just couldn’t stand him.“Things got so bad that she moved to her sister’s house and only returned weeks after giving birth,” he concludes.

Most pregnant women report at least one odd craving during their pregnancy. Sometimes, a woman will crave something she has never liked in her “normal” life. Take the case of one craving sweets, yet she doesn’t have a sweet tooth. Like an itch left unscratched, some of these cravings are overly unbearable and must be satisfied.

Craving roast clay, raw omena

In most cases, as medical theories and studies show, the cravings range from sweet, salty, spicy to sour foods; with sweet foods coming in as the most craved. Some cravings are very specific, with some women insisting on something from a specific place.

Such is the case of a Nairobi woman who craved guavas from Gikomba market, while another swore that the black forest cake she desperately desired could only be found at a small pastry shop 20 kilometers from where she lived.

Some of the women who spoke to us gave almost unbelievable accounts about their pregnancy cravings. From being addicted to black pepper to the extent of putting it in their tea, roasting clay and dipping it in mayonnaise, eating raw omena, to licking brick walls like one’s life depended on it, the stories are absurd!

Thirsting spiced, salted sponge

Some of these cravings range from incredible non-edibles to odd food combinations. Listen to the story of Alice Njeri*, a Nairobi-based beautician. “My craving was not really about food. It involved eating sponge! I consumed a whole a cushion of a seat and replaced it after birth! I would slice the sponge and munch it like it was the most delicious thing in the world,” Njeri giggles.

She adds: “Sometimes, I would spice it with salt and pepper or dip it in soda and then enjoy my “delicacy!” I did not stop for a minute to think about the health implications of eating sponge. Today, I think of it and shake my head in utter disbelief!” she narrates amidst chuckles.

Njeri jokes that she was lucky this strange craving struck late in her first pregnancy, otherwise, she could have ended up eating all the cushions and mattresses in her house within the nine months! She is expecting her second baby and hopes that she won’t be having such crazy cravings.

Dislike for husband

For Mercy Ndinda*, a journalist, the smell of paraffin was the sweetest smell in the world for close to six months. She says:

“I enjoyed inhaling the smell of kerosene. I got into the habit of sprinkling kerosene in the entire house, from the bedsheets, sofas to the floor – everything, everywhere! My husband could not stand it, but I did not care what others thought about how I felt. It was either my way or the highway. As far as he was concerned, I was selfish and moody. I didn’t want to see him. I would wake up at 3am to just smell kerosene!” Ndinda says, adding that she even kept some paraffin under her bed.

“It came in handy late at night and early in the morning when I was lazy or feeling tired to leave the room to smell kerosene,” she says. A woman who requested anonymity confessed that she was obsessed with the smell of her dirty undergarment and eating chalk.

“I would keep a dirty one under my pillow and kept smelling it. Believe it or not, it relieved my nausea! It was so relaxing and at times, I felt like just licking it,” she says. “I also enjoyed eating chalk. I consumed countless packets of chalk during my pregnancy,” she recalls.

Tasty ‘charcoal juice’

But that’s not the craziest of them all. Eunice Atieno*, an accountant, literally survived on charcoal. “During my second pregnancy, I ate kilos and kilos of charcoal! I munched charcoal like it had all the essential nutrients I needed for my baby and I. Sometimes, I would crush the charcoal into a fine powder lick it from the palm of my hand the way children do their glucose. I even made “charcoal juice” at least twice a week. I would mix my charcoal powder with really cold water and add a little sugar to taste. I absolutely loved it!” a smiling Atieno reveals.

Fly to France for cake

Pregnancy cravings know no bounds. There have also been tales of international celebrities with weird cravings. From model Kim Kardashian’s Paris cheesecake craving, Kate Middleton’s addiction to vegetable curry, to Victoria Beckham’s obsession with a desire to own lots and lots of animals, among others.

As bizarre as it may sound, Kim Kardashian took a plane to Paris to satisfy her craving! Kim was desperate for a slice of her favourite cheesecake from nowhere else but Hotel Costes in France. She was very devastated when she arrived at the hotel and found that they had run out of the dessert. Luckily, staff at the hotel managed to get a slice of cheesecake just for her, but it was after she pleaded and pleaded! Can you imagine that? A trans-Atlantic flight just to satisfy a craving! Really? Like seriously, ladies? Good lord!

Cause of weird cravings

Away from food cravings, some pregnant women crave people or other things like animals, like in Victoria Beckham’s case. The pregnant woman just wants to spend time with this specific person or pet animal. MaryAnne, a teacher in Nairobi, was one such woman during her first pregnancy.

“I was obsessed with my baby daddy. I would follow him literally everywhere. I cried a lot when he had to stay away from me for hours,” she confesses. Dislike for some people or things is also common. Some pregnant women hate seeing or spending time with their men. Is it because they imagine these men are responsible for their discomfort?

Some medical studies suggest that extreme hormonal changes that women undergo during pregnancy may have huge impact on their taste and preference, and that’s why some become allergic to their husbands, in-laws or relatives. Medical experts believe that some of these cravings are caused by a combination of psychological, biochemical and cultural factors.

Some of these powerful desires have been linked to iron deficiency. However, the puzzling bit is that most of the craved items don’t contain a significant amount of iron, anyway.

Associated dangers

Women must be warned that some of these cravings must not necessarily be satisfied, some are downright bizarre to the extent of even being considered dangerous. Most medical studies on cravings for non-food items indicate that this doesn’t necessarily mean that one has deficiency of any sort. Neither does it mean one should consume them.

Consuming non-food substances can lead to illness, such as lead poisoning or intestinal blockage. This can also lead to preterm birth or even death, medics warn.

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