What Are The Effects Of Malaria During Pregnancy And How To Prevent Them?

malariaMalaria is spread through the bite of an infected female mosquito.

Malaria is one of the leading causes of death in the world.

If you have malaria, you will experience the symptoms like fever, chills, and flu-like illness.

Malaria and HIV:

Both malaria and HIV kill millions of people every year. HIV is pandemic, which spreads from person to person by sexual contacts. Malaria is endemic, which is dependent on infected female anopheline mosquitoes and humans.

Both the diseases can be transmitted by contaminated blood. Both diseases infection rates can be decreased by behavioral changes, barrier protection like condoms for HIV and bed nets for malaria and medical prophylaxis. Malaria can be treated with a 1 week drug course where as HIV treatment is life long with medications.

Malaria and pregnancy:

Anemia during pregnancy is caused due to defects in nutrition, hookworm, malaria and HIV. Mild anemia during pregnancy is exacerbated by asymptomatic malaria. Due to immune suppression in pregnant women, recrudescence of malaria can be more frequent.

If a pregnant woman has falciparum malaria, it is associated with fetal distress, low birth weight, stillbirths, premature labor, neonatal deaths and miscarriages.

Placental malaria is associated with increased frequency of mother to child transmission of HIV. If the pregnant woman is having acute falciparum malaria, it can be dangerous as anemia can be amplified by red blood cell destruction.

Malaria in pregnant women cannot be easily diagnosed. Women with HIV are at higher risk of getting malaria. Pregnant women infected with malaria are likely to pass HIV to their unborn child.

Malaria infection can cause problem particularly for women in their first and second pregnancies and for women who are HIV positive. The problems that malaria infection causes differs by the type of malaria transmission area: stable (high) or unstable (low) transmission.

During pregnancy, immunity levels to malaria which are gained by women in high transmission areas reduce. It results in severe anemia during pregnancy and low birth weight in babies.

Women develop no immunity to malaria in low transmission areas. It results in anemia during pregnancy, severe malaria, premature delivery and fetal loss.

Prevention of malaria in pregnant women:

Prevention of malaria in pregnant women is done by insecticide treated nets, intermittent preventive treatments and managing malarial illness. Using nets is an important step in protecting pregnant women from malaria. Intermittent treatment is done with anti-malarial drugs to prevent the disease during pregnancy.

You have to manage the malaria during pregnancy carefully. Drugs should be used in adequate doses. Fluid replacement should be done at regular intervals to prevent pulmonary edema. Labor and premature labor requires careful and expert management with involvement of obstetrician.

Posted in: Infectious Diseases

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  1. Recent research suggests that the effects of malaria on maternal mortality may be underestimated due to possible contribution of falciparun malaria to hypertension and pre-eclampsia. See for example –

    1. Muehlenbachs A, Mutabingwa TK, Edmonds S, Fried M, Duffy PE. Hypertension and maternal-fetal conflict during placental malaria. PLoS Med. 2006 Nov;3(11):e446.

    2. Duffy PE. Plasmodium in the placenta: parasites, parity, protection, prevention and possibly preeclampsia. Parasitology. 2007 Dec;134(Pt 13):1877-81.

    Bill Brieger

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