Malaria is one of the commonest medical conditions experienced by women during pregnancy in Nigeria and across Sub-Saharan Africa and this is largely due to the endemic nature of malaria infection in this tropical region and our failure to eradicate the mosquito vector.
Malaria is a parasitic infection caused by four species of Plasmodium: vivax, ovale, malariae and falciparum. P. falciparum infection causes the most severe form of malaria and this is the usual form of Malaria experienced in Nigeria. Malaria infection is spread through the bite of a female anopheles mosquito during a blood meal. It can also be gotten by receiving infected blood during a blood transfusion. Malaria in pregnancy contributes significantly to our poor maternal morbidity and mortality rates in Nigeria; the World Health Organisation estimates that malaria is responsible for about 10,000 maternal deaths and 200,000 neonatal deaths per year.
CLINICAL SYMPTOMS OF MALARIA IN PREGNANCY
On a general note, symptoms of malaria in pregnancy can be tricky because in malaria dense tropical regions like Nigeria, many pregnant women with malaria may not show any clinical symptom. It is tricky because, the absence of clinical symptoms of malaria in a pregnant woman DOES NOT connote that the placenta bed is free of malaria parasite. It should be noted that most of the complications of malaria that may affect the unborn child are as a result of this sinister infestation of the placenta bed.
The typical clinical symptoms of malaria in a pregnant woman include:
- Chills, Rigors and Fever
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle aches
- Extreme tiredness
- Clinical Anaemia
- Breathing difficulties due to the accumulation of fluids in the lungs.
Moreover, women who live in malaria endemic regions have been noticed to lose their adult acquired immunity to the infection when they get pregnant. This loss of immunity has been noticed to be worse in women getting pregnant for the first time. Pregnant women are three times more likely to suffer from severe disease as compared to their non pregnant counterparts. The occurrence of malaria in pregnancy can cause deleterious complications to both the mother and her unborn child.