World Malaria Day 2022: Why pregnant women are at risk of severe disease

  • World Malaria Day 2022: The mosquito-borne parasitic infection, can cause severe symptoms in expecting mothers, including severe anemia, respiratory distress and infant mortality.
Malaria in pregnancy threatens the well-being of the mother and her developing fetus (File)
Malaria in pregnancy threatens the well-being of the mother and her developing fetus (File)
Published on Apr 22, 2022 07:15 PM IST
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World Malaria Day 2022: Malaria can put pregnant women at high risk of death, miscarriage, premature delivery and neonatal death. The mosquito-borne parasitic infection, can cause severe symptoms in expecting mothers, including severe anemia, respiratory distress and infant mortality. Pregnant women are three times more likely to suffer from severe disease as a result of malaria infection compared to those who are not, and have a mortality rate from severe disease. (Also read: World Malaria Day 2022: Lesser-known symptoms of malaria to watch out for)

"Malaria in pregnancy threatens the well-being of the mother and her developing fetus, and an infected mother is likely to be an important reservoir of Plasmodium infection. Infection is known to cause higher rates of miscarriage, intrauterine demise, premature delivery, low-birth-weight neonates, and neonatal death," says Dr. Mala Kaneria, Consultant Infectious Disease, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre, Mumbai.

How malaria can be fatal for expecting mothers

"Malaria takes a severe turn in pregnancy because of the immunocompromised state of pregnancy and placental sequestration of infected erythrocytes," says Dr Kaneria.

The expert says that even the immunity acquired by individuals living in malaria endemic areas, declines significantly during pregnancy, which puts expecting mothers at risk of severe disease.

"In pregnant women, destruction of malaria infected red blood cells occurs in the spleen and additionally in the placenta, thus rendering them anaemic. Women with severe anemia are at higher risk for morbidities such as congestive heart failure, fetal demise, and mortality associated with hemorrhage at the time of delivery," says Dr Kaneria elaborating on the complications of malaria in pregnant women.

Dr Kaneria says that even treatment of malaria in expecting mothers can be challenging, since certain antimalarials like doxycycline and primaquine, an agent used to prevent relapse of malaria are contraindicated in pregnancy, thus making pregnant women vulnerable to repeated episodes of malaria.

Here's how pregnant women can protect themselves from contracting the disease

"Pregnant women should be educated regarding avoiding mosquito bites by using insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs), mosquito repellants, long sleeved clothing and intermittent prophylactic therapy, in consultation with the physician, whenever feasible," says Dr Kaneria.

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Sunday, July 03, 2022