The contingency between notions of ethnophysiology and the folk dietetics of pregnancy are examined in a region of South India. Attention is focused on lay perceptions of essential body processes and health concerns during pregnancy. Preventive and promotive health strategies employed during pregnancy by the rural poor which involve diet are considered. The tendency for rural South Indian women to prefer smaller babies and the relationship of this preference to dietary behavior are considered in relation to both concepts of the appropriate quality and quantity of food to eat during pregnancy and the concepts of baby space and baby strength. Nutritional ramifications of alternative food consumption patterns are considered. The importance of understanding indigenous health concerns and notions of ethnophysiology when introducing public health programs is highlighted by a discussion of why many pregnant women are reluctant to comply with iron sulfate, tetanus toxoid, and vitamin therapy as currently presented by primary health care staff.

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