Malaria during pregnancy reduces birth weight and low weight at birth are major causes of infant mortality. OYEYEMI GBENGA-MUSTAPHA reports that adherence to intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy can save mother and child.
Expectant mothers have been urged to always ask for sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) as intermittent preventive drug against malaria during pregnancy. They should also register at a health facility for their ante-natal once they are confirmed pregnant.
A World Health Organisation (WHO) official, Dr Tolu Arowolo, who stated this at the collaborative meeting between – The National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP) and Health Writers Association of Nigeria (HEWAN), said the importance of early Antenatal Care (ANC) and administration of intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy (IPTp) are critical in preventing malaria during pregnancy.
According to him, IPTp is based on the assumption that every pregnant woman residing in high malaria transmission area, has a trace of malaria in her blood stream or placenta, whether she has its symptoms or not. A pregnant woman is supposed to receive a minimum of three doses of SP before delivery. “They should also sleep under LLINs because it is also an intervention against malaria,’’ she said.
Arowolo said good nutrition is critical during pregnancy as it helps to nourish the mother and foetus, as well as boost the immune system.
“IPTp reduces maternal malaria episodes, maternal and fetal anaemia, placental parasitaemia, low birth weight, and neonatal mortality. Furthermore, all pregnant women should receive iron and folic acid supplementation as a part of routine antenatal care,”he said.
He continued:”Falciparum malaria during pregnancy has long been recognised as an important determinant of low birth weight. The reduction in birth weight is usually more marked in primi-gravidae, but can extend to second and third gravidae in areas of low malaria transmission.”
According to him, WHO recommends “the following package of interventions for the prevention and treatment of malaria during pregnancy, use of long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) in all areas with moderate to high malaria transmission in Africa, intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy (IPTp) with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP), as part of antenatal care services, prompt diagnosis and effective treatment of malaria infections.
“Malaria during pregnancy increased neonatal mortality by lowering birth weight, whereas fever in the week before birth had a further independent effect in addition to inducing premature birth. The prevention of malaria in pregnancy and, thus, of malaria-attributable low birth weight, should increase the survival of young babies,” she explained.
A gynaecologist, Dr Bartholomew Odio, urged everyone, especially pregnant women to always request for malaria screening/testing before the treatment of malaria fever.
Odio, who is the Malaria Technical Advisor with Jhpiego Nigeria, an affiliate of John Hopkins University, U.S, advised expectant mothers to always demand to know the drugs being given to them.
Mr Timothy Obot, who represented Head, Monitoring and Evaluation in NMEP, said there had been a lot of commendable strategies deployed to prevent, appropriately diagoonise and treat malaria.
He said there were huge gaps in appropriate knowledge about the causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention, thereby necessitating the need to bridge the information gap.
HEWAN President, Mrs Chioma Obinna, assured of her members’ commitment at curbing and eliminating malaria and its effects in the country,”