Article abstract

Introduction: kaolin is a type of clay consumed mostly by women especially pregnant women of which the act of clay eating is termed geophagy. Different people use this type of clay for diverse purposes. Notwithstanding, most Ghanaians consume this clay out of cravings, taste and smell. There have been some attendant problems with the consumption of clay especially by pregnant women. This research sought to assess the mineral and microbial contents of kaolin and address the perceptions of pregnant women on geophagy.


Methods: this study employed a cross-sectional convenient sampling method to sample 217 pregnant women and sellers of clay (Ayilo). A face-to-face interview was conducted to administer a structured questionnaire to respondents. Mineral and microbial analyses were also conducted on the ore of the kaolin mined from Anfoega in the Volta Region of Ghana using standardized procedures.


Results: results from this study suggests geophagy prevalence of 48.4% (n=217) among pregnant women in the Ho municipality of Ghana. Results obtained also suggest smell and taste of the clay, influenced the consumption by these pregnant women to a large extent. Strikingly, majority of the respondents had no knowledge on the adverse health implications clay consumption had on the human body. The physiological state of pregnancy also cause many to use it to treat nausea, other accompanying discomfort and in some instances to quench their hunger. Traces of Lead, Nickel and Arsenic were found in the clay. Common microorganisms identified were Bacillus, Pseudomonas, Mucor and Aspergillus spp.


Conclusion: geophagy is a common practice among pregnant women living in the Ho municipality in the Volta region, Ghana. Most of them consumed it for varied reasons. Although there are beneficial minerals, accumulated effects of these heavy metals can lead to various complications in pregnancy. The clay also contained pathogenic microorganisms. These pathogens have a whole range of deleterious effects on the human body ranging from gastrointestinal infections to cancer and so may not be safe to consume clay products from Anfoega, Ghana.