Undernutrition is associated with maternal morbidity and poor pregnancy outcomes. This qualitative study seeks to understand the multilevel factors influencing maternal dietary practices in Niger, including the impact of pregnancy illnesses on diet. Criterion-based, purposive sampling was used to select pregnant women and household members from 24 villages in a rural district of the Maradi Region in south-central Niger. Semistructured interviews (n = 153) and focus group discussions (n = 38) explored 4 primary themes: (a) perceptions of ideal diet during pregnancy, (b) barriers to consuming the ideal diet, (c) coping strategies including dietary responses related to pregnancy illnesses, and (d) changes in perceptions from early to late pregnancy. Longitudinal data collection allowed for repeated interviews of pregnant women to document changes in dietary practices throughout pregnancy. Transcripts were coded using an inductive approach informed by grounded theory methodology. Participants categorized foods into 4 primary dietary taxonomies when discussing ideal maternal diets but cited constraints related to accessibility and availability impeding routine consumption of these foods. Perceptions of "modern," urban foods as healthy, coupled with key structural barriers such as food costs, were identified. Maternal morbidity influenced food consumption, as women reported reducing food intake early in pregnancy in response to illness episodes. Although awareness of optimal foods for supporting healthy pregnancies was moderately high, some misconceptions were observed and multilevel barriers to food security restricted opportunities for consuming these foods. Nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions could improve access and availability of acceptable foods for supporting increased dietary intake during pregnancy.
© 2018 The Authors. Maternal and Child Nutrition Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.