Malaria in pregnancy- what you need to know?

Malaria is predominant in tropical regions. Usually, this infection erupts during the monsoon season as it provides the ground for mosquito breeding. Factors like humidity, temperature, and rainfall play a significant role in the occurrence of malaria.

Pregnancy is a tricky period. This article will tell you why you are vulnerable to malaria during pregnancy, how you can identify it and what you should do about it. Malaria can lead to complications in the mother and also the baby. Nevertheless, precautions and timely treatment will help you avoid any problems.

Why more risk to the pregnant?

  • Loss of immunity: Pregnancy weakens a woman’s immune system in general due to decreased immunoglobulin synthesis. This makes the expectant woman vulnerable to malaria.
  • The new organ placenta: Placenta is a new organ growing inside your body. It allows the infection to pass through the immunity circle, and also allows placenta-specific phenotypes to multiply.
  • Transmission areas: Women in stable/ high transmission areas must have acquired immunity against malaria. Hence their chances of getting the infection are fewer. But in unstable/ low transmission areas women have lower immunity level, which increases the risk of the infection.

  • When to suspect Malaria in Pregnancy?

    In its early stage, the symptoms of malaria can be similar to those of influenza or viral infection. Only a blood test can help determine the exact infection. The common symptoms of malaria in pregnancy are high fever and sweating or feeling chills, nausea, headache, vomiting and muscle pain.

    It is important to recognize and treat pregnancy malaria at the earliest because it presents potential risks to the lives of both mother and the unborn baby. The treatments include the use of anti-malarial drugs that are safe in pregnancy.

    Severe malaria is a life-threatening infection that can lead to anemia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, cerebral malaria, and organ damages in the mother while it can cause low birth weight, vertical transmission, miscarriages and preterm delivery in the fetus. Therefore, a pregnant woman diagnosed with malaria must get immediate medical attention to reduce the chances of any pregnancy risks.

    Prevention of Malaria In Pregnancy

    Follow these preventive measures to minimize the likelihood of getting infected:

  • Insecticide-treated bed nets (ITN) help in repelling malaria causing mosquitoes. They are cost-effective and are a safe way to prevent malaria, thereby protecting both the expectant mother and her baby.
  • Wearing light colored clothes: Generally, mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors. Pregnant women, who live or travel to malaria-prone areas, should wear light-colored and full length garments with long sleeves to avoid exposure of skin.
  • Stay in cool areas: Stay in cool or air conditioned areas since mosquitoes cannot flourish in cold temperatures.

  • Pregnant women have weak immunity, which makes them susceptible to infectious diseases. If you are pregnant and have any signs of a recurrent fever, then visit a doctor. A blood test can help determine the cause of a fever. Timely medical intervention and proper nursing at home can bring you back to sound health.

    Dr Reenu Jain
    Associate Director
    Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology
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