Foods tabooed for pregnant women in Abala district of Afar region, Ethiopia: An inductive qualitative study

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Background: Food taboo is contributing substantially to malnutrition for pregnant women by restricting and limiting the frequency and variety of foods most of which are nutritious and easily accessible. The practice is common in developing countries and most of the food taboos in East Africa fall on the women and most unfortunately on the pregnant. Foods of animal products, which are the main sources dietary energy of pastoralist communities, are often prone to the practice of food taboos. Nonetheless, the existence of the practice in Ethiopian pastoralist communities, the communities whose way of life is mostly nomadic and based on tending of herds or flocks, is not investigated yet. Therefore, the current study aimed to explore foods tabooed for pregnant women and the reasons behind the practice if exists in Abala district of Afar region, Ethiopia. Methods: Exploratory qualitative study was conducted inductively involving homogeneous participants in four focus group discussions and eight key informants in individual in-depth interview who were purposively selected in Aballa district from March 1 to 30, 2016. A semi-structured interview guide was used to collect the data. The investigators audiotaped focus group discussions and interviews and then transcribed them verbatim. Finally, the transcribed data were imported to Atlas.ti 7 software for coding. Analysis was done inductively. Triangulation and peer debriefing were applied to assure data quality. Results: The study revealed that foods tabooed for pregnant women were 1) Eating a large amount of food of any type, 2) fatty foods like meat, milk and yoghurt, 3) Foods that are not in liquid form such as different types of bread and 4) cool/cold foods such as cold milk, cold meat and cold water. The reasons mentioned to adhere with the foods taboo for pregnant women were to avoid difficulty to deliver the fetus, to prevent disease like Gastritis, Diarrhea, Typhoid and skin discoloration of the fetus. Besides, inconveniences like abdominal cramp were reported as reasons to adhere the foods tabooed. Conclusions: Pregnant women in Aballa district avoid eating numerous accessible foods because the foods are believed as tabooed for them. Further studies that focus on the extent of food taboo and uncovering the understanding on how it is being practiced were recommended.




Hadush, Z., Birhanu, Z., Chaka, M., & Gebreyesus, H. (2017). Foods tabooed for pregnant women in Abala district of Afar region, Ethiopia: An inductive qualitative study. BMC Nutrition, 3(1).

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