Malaria in Pregnancy

Malaria is one of the most common illnesses in sub-Saharan Africa and it has been described as endemic. Malaria is caused by transmission of plasmodium falciparum by mosquitoes. Though preventable, around 125 million pregnancies are at risk of malaria every year, and about 200,000 babies die as a result.1

In an endemic region, adults acquire immunity but pregnant women are particularly vulnerable especially if it is her first pregnancy, so adding prevention and treatment of malaria to antenatal care is very important.

The symptoms of malaria in pregnancy vary depending on levels of acquired immunity in the region and malaria transmission intensity. In endemic areas, there may be no symptoms but the parasites may be present in the placenta and cause maternal anaemia, a condition in which the red cells in the blood are insufficient.

 Common symptoms of malaria are headache, chills, high fever and vomiting. These symptoms usually show 10 to 15 days after being bitten. If left untreated, malaria can cause complications like bleeding, enlargement of spleen, and kidney failure. There is also a great risk of stillbirth, miscarriage, and low birth weight babies. A blood test will confirm presence of malaria.

Malaria can be prevented by reducing the presence of mosquitoes in the environment since they are the transmitters of the disease. Keeping the surroundings free of mosquito breeding grounds like stagnant water and dirty drains will help. In addition, the World Health Organization recommends the following:

·        sleeping under long lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs);

·        intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy with suitable antimalarial drug administered by a doctor;

·        contact a doctor immediately any symptoms are noticed for prompt diagnosis and treatment;

·        use of iron and folic acid supplements as part of antenatal care.

1. Dellicour Set al. Quantifying the Number of Pregnancies at Risk of Malaria in 2007: A Demographic Study. PLos Med 7(1):e1000221 (2010)

2. WHO: A Strategic Framework for Malaria Prevention and Control during Pregnancy in the Africa Region.


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