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The Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition
ISSN: 1606-0997
EISSN: 1606-0997
Vol. 35, No. 1, 2016, pp. 1-7
Bioline Code: hn16009
Full paper language: English
Document type: Research Article
Document available free of charge

The Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition, Vol. 35, No. 1, 2016, pp. 1-7

 en Dietary habits, food taboos, and perceptions towards weight gain during pregnancy in Arsi, rural central Ethiopia: a qualitative cross-sectional study
Zerfu, Taddese Alemu; Umeta, Melaku & Baye, Kaleab


Background: The nutritional status of women before and during pregnancy can be determined by maternal knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions towards certain foods. The present study aimed to explore maternal dietary habits, food taboos, and cultural beliefs that can affect nutrition during pregnancy in rural Arsi, central Ethiopia.
Methods: A qualitative, cross-sectional study, involving 38 key informant in-depth interviews and eight focus group discussions, was conducted among purposefully selected pregnant women and their husbands, elderly people, community leaders, health workers, and agriculture office experts. Participants were selected purposefully from all the major agro-ecologic areas of the study site. Data was analyzed manually using the thematic framework analyses method.
Results: The pregnant women reported that they did not change the amount and type of foods consumed to take into account their increased nutritional need during pregnancy. The consumption of meat, fish, fruits, and some vegetables during pregnancy remained as low as the pre-pregnancy state, irrespective of the women’s income and educational status. Although not practiced by all, a number of taboos related to the intake of certain food items and misconceptions that can adversely affect nutritional status during pregnancy were identified. The most common taboos were related to the consumption of green leafy vegetables, yogurt, cheese, sugar cane, and green pepper. However, the frequency and extent of the practice varied by maternal age, family composition, and literacy level. Older mothers, from rural villages, and those with no formal education were more likely to practice the taboos than younger and educated ones. Almost all of the participants disfavored weight gain during pregnancy in fear of obstetric complications associated with the delivery of a bigger infant.
Conclusions: Misconceptions about weight gain during pregnancy and food taboos were widespread, particularly among older and illiterate rural communities. Thus, future nutrition programs should promote diversification of both the agricultural production and consumption.

Food taboo; Maternal nutrition; Dietary diversity; Pregnancy; Weight gain

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