Everything you need to know about malaria in pregnancy
Malaria is a nightmare for pregnant women who live in malaria-prone regions. This is because the malarial parasite is easily contracted through mosquito bites. Effectively, treating malaria in pregnancy can be very difficult. Every pregnant women is susceptible to this disease.
“When I got sick from malaria, I often cried from the bone-rattling chills, the pounding headaches, the body pains and the stomach aches,” says Nnenna Okaro MD, a gyneacologist at the Federal Medical Center in Abakiliki. “As a doctor, I was aware of the risks malaria posed to me and my baby. I was scared.”
A report from the World Health Organization shows that malaria has been a huge public health concern since the nineteenth century. This deadly disease is prevalent in Africa and Asia.
Consequences of untreated malaria
Given the risks involved in treating malaria, many women wonder if they shouldn’t just avoid treating malaria altogether.
It might interest you to know that untreated malaria can pose severe risks for both the mother and her baby.
“Pregnant women shouldn’t leave malaria untreated for too long as this can lead to acute lung injury, severe hypoglycaemia, miscarriage or stillbirth. Believe it or not, malaria is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality or morbidity,” says Nnenna Okaro MD.
How to treat malaria in pregnancy
During pregnancy, you would want to treat malaria with caution. Treatments depend on the trimester of the pregnancy and the severity of the illness. Many preventative and curative malarial therapies can cause miscarriage or birth defects.
“Doctors are often wary of prescribing anti-malarial medicines in early pregnancy.
During the first trimester, experienced doctors give multivitamins to boost the pregnant woman’s immunity at the off chance that her body can actually fight the disease,” says Nnenna Okaro MD.
To treat severe cases of malaria in pregnancy, doctors often recommend:
• B Vitamins, high doses of Vit. C, and folic acid
• If that doesn’t work, towards the end of the first trimester, the doctor might recommend paludrine (a brand of quinine), usually at the rate of one tablet per day for 4 – 7 days
• Plenty of water, mild exercises and rest
• Meals that are low in fats and oils, as fatty foods tend to increase the severity of malaria episodes
• Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables such as garden egg leaves, ugu, kale, bitter leaves, spinach and so on
It is not advisable to ingest ACT medications until the pregnancy has passed the 20 weeks gestation period. If possible, avoid over-the-counter ACT prescriptions. Stick to IPTp malaria medications, prescribed at antenatal clinics.
Effective ways to prevent the occurrence of malaria
There are steps you can take to prevent malaria in pregnancy. Some of these steps include but aren’t limited to:
1. Sleeping under a treated mosquito net.
If you attend antenatal clinics at a government or missionary hospital, you might get treated nets at no cost. Otherwise, you can buy from a pharmaceutical store or the open market.
Insecticide-treated nets protect pregnant women from mosquito bites at night when mosquitoes are most active.
“The trick is to hang them over your bed and sleep under them. If the weather is too hot, buy a rechargeable fan and put it under the net too. Don’t expose yourself to mosquitoes. The heat isn’t a good excuse for avoiding your net,” says Nnenna Okaro MD.
2. Take the prescribed Intermittent preventive treatment (IPTp) religiously
IPTp is the safest prescription available for pregnant women. They curb the risk of the following malaria-related complications occurring:
• maternal and fetal anaemia
• jaundice in newborns
• maternal malaria episodes
• placental parasitaemia
• low birth weight in the newborn
• neonatal mortality
• maternal and fetal anaemia
3. Taking prenatal vitamins
Pregnant women must make it a point of duty to take their prenatal vitamins. The iron, Vit. C and folic acid supplements will help fortify their bodies against malaria and other dangerous diseases.
4. Maintaining high-level sanitary conditions
Anopheles mosquitoes breed mostly in stagnant water and in sewage pits. Dirty environments attract mosquitoes too. Ensure that there aren’t pools of stagnant water around your home. Weed the areas around your house or get someone to do it for you.
Keep your environment clean. That’s a simple way to discourage mosquitoes from breeding around your house.
Malaria has very dire consequences for pregnant women. It is imperative for women to protect themselves from infection by sleeping under insecticide-treated nets, ingesting IPTp medications, taking prenatal vitamins and maintaining optimal sanitary conditions.
If for some reason you come down with malaria, please see your physician or healthcare provider. Untreated malaria can cause lung diseases, miscarriage or stillbirth and even maternal mortality.
Do your best to give you and your baby the best experience possible.