Prevalence of geophagia and its contributing factors among pregnant women at Dr. George Mukhari Academic Hospital, Pretoria
Introduction: Geophagia is very common among pregnant women, particularly in Africa. There are many reasons given for geophagia such as cultural, medicinal and religious, making it an acceptable norm regardless of health risks involved.
Objectives: The study explored prevalence and factors influencing geophagia among women visiting an antenatal clinic in Pretoria.
Methods: A quantitative survey was done on a convenience sample of 597 pregnant women and structured interviews conducted. Statistical analysis was done using simple percentage and interview data analyzed using Epi Info statistical software.
Results: Geophagia was reported by 54.0% of the women (n=323) and of these, 75.2% (n=243) ate at least 3 teaspoons per day. Reasons for the practice ranged from simple unexplained craving to belief that soil acts as an iron supplement. The study revealed that education levels did not act as a contributing factor as both literate and illiterate women were consumers. Partners of consumers played a key role in influencing the practice as most consumers were not married.
Conclusion: Geophagia is practiced by a considerable proportion of pregnant women in this area. Greater vigilance may be needed as part of the antenatal classes to avoid potentially harmful effects of the habit.
Keywords: Geophagia, pregnant women, Dr. George Mukhari Academic Hospital, Pretoria