Bad for Mother & Child: 10 Common Complications of Malaria in Pregnancy

Malaria in Pregnancy -Nigerian Woman

WHY Doctors Hate Malaria in Pregnancy!

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Common Complications of Malaria during Pregnancy

The most common complications to the Mother are:

  1. Anaemia with its attendant complications
  2. Acute lung oedema which manifests as difficulty in breathing
  3. Preterm Labour/delivery
  4. A more severe form of the disease where it may affect one or more organs like the kidneys, the liver or spleen.

The most common complications to the unborn Child are:

  1. Intrauterine growth restriction
  2. Low birth weight
  3. Premature delivery
  4. Stillbirth
  5. Spontaneous Abortion/Miscarriages
  6. Congenital malaria – a baby born with severe malaria infection

The Malaria & Anaemia Duo in Pregnancy (Close Me)

ANAEMIA IN PREGNANCY is one of the commonest complications that may occur when a pregnant women gets infected with malaria (however, the overall most popular reason for anaemia is pregnancy is still iron deficiency). Anaemia refers to a state of low red blood cells in the blood and this deficiency may either be as a result of inadequate production of red blood cells or due to an increased loss of blood for whatever reason. With malaria in pregnancy, the resultant loss comes from the massive destruction of the infected red blood cells by the spleen as the body tries to fight off the malaria parasite.

The Extra Danger: In every woman, one of the natural body changes during pregnancy is that there is an increased production of blood in the mother to compensate for the baby’s needs. However, the liquid component of blood (plasma) is produced at a much higher rate than the red blood cells. This implies that every normal pregnancy already has a natural ‘physiologic’ dilution effect that may mimic anaemic in a pregnant woman. As the lifespan of a red blood cell is roughly only 120 days, ensuring their adequate supply during pregnancy is highly dependent on having adequate stores of the necessary vitamins and minerals required for production and limiting all possible causes of blood loss such as a preventable malaria infection!

Preventing Malaria in Pregnancy

With the great number of collaborative efforts between Governments and other bilateral agencies such as the WHO, UNICEF and several NGOs to reduce and eradicate malaria in the most severely affected areas, prevention of malaria in pregnancy can be very well summarized into 3 simple steps:

  1. The use of insecticide treated nets (Long lasting Insecticide-treated Nets) in endemic regions. Studies have shown that women who slept protected were less likely to have babies who were born small for their gestational age or born prematurely.
  2. The use of intermittent preventive treatment for pregnant women between the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.  Pregnant women should receive 2 curative doses of sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine after 16 weeks and before 36 weeks of her pregnancy with a time interval of 1 month between doses.
  3. Prompt and effective case management of women who are diagnosed with malaria in pregnancy. Such women should also receive folate and iron supplementation for anaemia as part of the routine antenatal package.

All pregnant women need to get at least 2 curative doses of Fansidar after 16 weeks and before 36 weeks of her pregnancy (at least 4 weeks apart)



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