Malaria is caused by the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito, which carries the Plasmodium parasite. There are 4 different types of Plasmodium parasites. These are P. falciparum, P. vivax, P. malariae, and P. ovale. If not treated on time, malaria can be life threatening. Malaria in pregnancy causes difficulties for the mother and the child as pregnancy and malaria are both mutually aggravating.
The symptoms of malaria during pregnancy can be non-specific and sometimes it may even be asymptomatic. Commonly observed signs include:
Your doctor will be able to diagnose malaria with a history of your symptoms and a physical examination. The doctor will check for signs of spleen or liver enlargement and might conduct some blood tests to confirm the diagnosis. These include tests like microscopy and rapid malarial test. They confirm the presence and type of malarial parasite.
Pregnant women are at a higher risk of developing complications of malaria than the general population. Effects of malaria in pregnancy can be severe anemia, pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), hypoglycemia, and immunosuppression.
Malaria can be transmitted to the fetus through the placenta, causing congenital malaria which poses a high threat to the baby.
Malaria and its complications during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, a low-birth-weight baby, premature delivery, or stillbirth.
Malaria treatment would require you to get admitted to the hospital. Your doctor will recommend medications based on the type of malarial parasite in your blood and the trimester of the pregnancy. Medications like quinine and chloroquine are recommended for treatment in the first trimester and can be used in all trimesters of pregnancy. Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT), which is a combination of 2 or 3 medications, is recommended by WHO for malarial infection in the second and third trimester of pregnancy. Other medications like mefloquine and clindamycin are also considered safe. Treatment also aims at preventing and managing associated complications and managing labor.
Consult your doctor if you suspect any signs of malaria during pregnancy.
Also read: Anemia In Pregnancy