Addressing Malaria in Pregnancy

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Do you know that Malaria is the cause of death in one out of every ten women who die from pregnancy-related conditions?

Startling as that may sound when you tally the numbers, it’s even more shocking. Malaria is responsible for the death of about 16,000 women yearly – the equivalent of 106 medium-sized plane crashes every year!

Why malaria is dangerous in pregnancy

Pregnant women are highly vulnerable to malaria because of the reduced natural immunity that occurs during pregnancy. A pregnant woman is 3 times more likely to have severe malaria than a woman who’s not pregnant.

Preventing malaria in pregnancy is crucial because it poses a danger not only to the woman but the unborn child as well. When you’re pregnant malaria causes severe anemia that complicates childbirth.

In malaria endemic areas, even when a pregnant woman has no symptoms, the malaria parasite may infect the placenta and be transmitted to the fetus. Miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, and reduced growth of the fetus are all potential dangers to the fetus as a result of malaria.

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What prevents malaria in pregnancy?

The sad part of all this is that we can easily prevent these deaths through the use of simple methods that have been shown to work to prevent malaria in pregnancy.

  • Regular use of Insecticide Treated Nets by pregnant women
  • Giving pregnant women Intermittent Preventive Treatment, with Sulfadoxine-Pyrimethamine, (same drug as Fansidar) during the 4th, 5th, and 6th month of pregnancy

These are vital tools in the fight against malaria among pregnant women in endemic areas of Sub-Saharan Africa.

If prevention is that simple why are pregnant women still dying from malaria?

Inadequate health systems, poor understanding of health, including causes of disease, prevention methods, danger signs and appropriate treatment all contribute to the problem of malaria in pregnancy. Pregnant women and communities also don’t realize the importance of antenatal care.

In many parts of Africa, antenatal care is usually the first contact opportunity for a woman to connect with health services, giving her an entry point to receiving coordinated care. Antenatal care promotes healthy home practices, influences good care-seeking behaviors, and links women with pregnancy complications to better care.

The WHO recommendation is to have Intermittent Preventive Treatment at each scheduled antenatal visit after the first 3 months of pregnancy. A woman receiving antenatal care is more likely to get malaria preventive treatment than one who isn’t receiving antenatal care.

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Steps to take if you’re pregnant

If you or someone you know is pregnant, it’s important to take some action:

  • Register for antenatal care as soon as possible.
  • It’s also a good idea to ask the doctor, nurse or midwife at the clinic or hospital about malaria preventive treatment.
  • Use an insecticide-treated bed net, especially during pregnancy – it works!!
  • If you do develop malaria, Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT) antimalarial drugs are safe to use for treatment during pregnancy.

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