Is areca innocent? The effect of areca (betel) nut chewing in a population of pregnant women on the Thai-Myanmar border.
Chue AL., Carrara VI., Paw MK., Pimanpanarak M., Wiladphaingern J., van Vugt M., Lee SJ., Nosten F., McGready R.
Eight manuscripts have specifically examined the effects of areca (betel) nut use in pregnant women, seven of which have documented adverse effects on birth weight, newborn neurological status, gender ratio and pregnancy outcomes such as anaemia and miscarriage following areca nut use during pregnancy. A retrospective cohort analysis of migrant and refugee pregnant women attending antenatal clinics along the Thai-Myanmar border (July 1997 to November 2006) was conducted to examine the adverse effects of areca nut use routinely recorded on enrolment. Of 7685 women, 2284 (29.7%) never used areca or smoked (cheroots), 2484 (32.3%) only used areca, 438 (5.7%) only smoked cheroots and 2479 (32.3%) used both areca and cheroots. Pieces of ripe areca nut in a leaf with lime, without tobacco, were used particularly among older multigravid women. Adverse pregnancy effects were not observed in areca nut users compared with non-users. Smoking, but not areca nut use, had a dose-related effect on miscarriage. Areca nut use in conjunction with smoking reduced the adverse effects of smoking on birth weight, further supporting a lack of effect of areca nut. Areca (betel) nut-related adverse pregnancy outcomes were not observed in this population, whereas smoking was clearly harmful. Differences from previous reports may result from the amount or types of areca nut, or quid content, consumed between countries. Smoking, but not areca nut, reduction is likely to improve pregnancy outcomes on the Thai-Myanmar border.