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     Malaria in Pregnancy: Causes, Effects & Treatment

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    Malaria in Pregnancy: Causes, Effects & Treatment

    Updated on 3 November 2023

    Malaria, a mosquito-borne parasitic infection, is a major health concern around the world. It can also be dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn babies. Malaria in pregnancy can lead to severe complications and even death.

    More than one hundred twenty-five million pregnant women are at risk of contracting malaria yearly. Malaria is a leading cause of anaemia, preterm delivery, low birth weight, and infant mortality. It can also cause serious health problems for the mother, including seizures and kidney failure.

    Here we will learn about the causes of malaria in pregnancy, its effects, and treatment malaria in pregnancy.

    What is malaria in pregnancy?

    Malaria pregnancy is a type of malaria infection that occurs during pregnancy. Malarial infection poses a far greater risk of severe disease for pregnant women. Pregnant women are three times more likely to be affected than other individuals. The WHO estimates that about 200,000 babies die every year from malaria during pregnancy.

    This infection is caused by the female Anopheles mosquito, which carries the Plasmodium parasite. The condition can be dangerous for the mother and her unborn child, causing severe health problems.

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    How to diagnose malaria in pregnancy?

    Malaria is divided into two types: Severe and uncomplicated. A blood test is necessary to diagnose malaria in pregnancy. Treatment should begin immediately if the infection is confirmed.

    Uncomplicated malaria is diagnosed through a blood test and physical examination of the patient. Blood tests can detect the presence of parasites. The cause of the infection is determined by analyzing the mother's medical history and doing a physical examination.

    Similarly, a blood test and physical examination are needed to diagnose severe malaria. The general cause of Severe malaria is P falciparum infection, which is more likely to be fatal. The symptoms of Severe malaria include fever, chills, headaches, and weakness. Doctors diagnose severe cases through laboratory tests and physical examinations.

    Other illnesses also cause similar symptoms to complicate malaria diagnosis in pregnancy, such as typhoid, dengue, and leptospirosis. It is essential to seek medical attention if pregnant women have any symptoms.

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    Effects of malaria in pregnancy

    The effects of malaria in pregnancy can be severe for both the mother and baby. Following are some of the complications of malaria in pregnant women.

    1. Anaemia

    Malaria-related anaemia is one of the most serious problems for pregnant women, as it can lead to severe health issues or even demise.

    2. Preterm birth

    Malaria infection increases the risk of premature delivery, which can lead to several other medical issues in newborns.

    3. Low birth weight

    Babies born to mothers infected with malaria are more likely to be born with low birth weight, putting them at higher risk of health complications.

    4. Miscarriage

    Malaria infection in pregnant women can also lead to miscarriage or fetal death.

    5. Congenital malaria

    In rare cases, the infection may be passed from mother to baby, leading to congenital malaria, which can cause severe health problems in newborns.

    Causes of malaria in pregnancy

    The causes of malaria in pregnant women are similar to those of any other person. They include:

    1. Mosquito bites

    Mosquitoes carrying the malaria parasite can transmit the infection to humans through their bites.

    2. Travel

    Travelling to areas where malaria is common puts you at risk of disease.

    3. Blood transfusion

    Transfusions of contaminated blood or blood products can also cause malaria.

    By carelessly sharing needles to administer drugs: Sharing needles to inject drugs can also put a person at risk of malaria.

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    Treatment of malaria in pregnancy

    Malaria in pregnancy treatment should be started as early as possible. WHO recommends antimalarial drugs to prevent and treat malaria in pregnant women. Below are the malaria pregnancy treatment options:

    1. Combination of quinine and clindamycin

    For treating uncomplicated malaria in pregnancy, the WHO recommends a combination of quinine and clindamycin.

    2. Intravenous (IV) quinine or artesunate

    The WHO recommends IV quinine or artesunate for severe malaria in pregnant women.

    In addition, It is also crucial for malaria pregnancy treatment to include measures to prevent further infections. Pregnant malaria treatment and diagnosis can help to prevent severe illness and complications.

    Prevention of malaria during pregnancy

    The best way to prevent malaria in pregnancy is through prevention measures. This includes:

    1. Using insect repellent

    Use an insect repellent containing DEET or picaridin to keep mosquitoes away.

    2. Bed nets

    Use a bed net to protect from mosquito bites while sleeping.

    3. Clean environment

    Eliminate standing water near the home to reduce mosquito breeding.

    4. Regular check-ups

    Have regular check-ups with the doctor during pregnancy to monitor for any signs of malaria.

    Preventive measures will help reduce the risk of malaria in pregnancy and ensure a healthy pregnancy. The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends that pregnant women living in areas with a high risk of malaria should be offered intermittent preventive treatment (IPT) during their first and second trimesters.


    1. Bauserman M, Conroy AL, North K, Patterson J, Bose C, Meshnick S. (2019). An overview of malaria in pregnancy. Semin Perinatol.

    2. Takem EN, D'Alessandro U. (2013). Malaria in pregnancy. Mediterr J Hematol Infect Dis.


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    Written by

    Sanju Rathi

    A Postgraduate in English Literature and a professional diploma holder in Interior Design and Display, Sanju started her career as English TGT. Always interested in writing, shetook to freelance writing to pursue her passion side by side. As a content specialist, She is actively producing and providing content in every possible niche.

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