Eating down in pregnancy: Exploring food-related beliefs and practices of pregnancy in rural Nepal

Parul S Christian, Shipra Bunjun Srihari, Andrew Thorne-Lyman, Subarna K. Khatry, Steven C. LeClerq, Sharada Ram Shrestha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Adequate nutrition during pregnancy, vital for the health of the mother and the newborn, may be influenced by pregnancy-related food beliefs. This study explores food-related beliefs and practices specifically related to reducing food intake in pregnancy in a rural community in Nepal by combining ethnographic and quantitative data collected from pregnant Nepali women. A large proportion (60%) of women reported reducing rice intake during pregnancy but the reduction was related to food aversions and being unwell (66%), rather than the desire to have smaller babies or other cultural beliefs (18%). Only 10-20% reported reducing intakes of other nutrient-rich foods during pregnancy. Such foods were generally consumed in inadequate amounts due to seasonal variation or because of their high cost. In a multivariate analysis, maternal characteristics that were associated with decreasing food intake during pregnancy included literacy, poor appetite, socio-economic status, and presence of night blindness, caused by vitamin A deficiency. We conclude that eating down to prevent difficult deliveries may not be very common in rural Nepal but women may reduce food intake for reasons of aversion to food, lack of appetite, or feeling unwell. A decline in the consumption of foods rich in protein and micronutrients was not evident; such foods appear to be chronically low in the diets of poor women in this setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-278
Number of pages26
JournalEcology of Food and Nutrition
Volume45
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2006

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Keywords

  • Eating down
  • Food intake
  • Micronutrients
  • Nepal
  • Night blindness
  • Pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science

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