Malaria in pregnancy. Guidelines for measuring key monitoring and evaluation indicators (archived)
Malaria infection during pregnancy is an enormous public health problem, with substantial risks for the mother, her fetus and the neonate. In areas of low transmission of Plasmodium falciparum, where levels of acquired immunity are low, women are susceptible to episodes of severe malaria, which can result in stillbirths or spontaneous abortion or in the death of the mother (Luxemburger et al., 1997).
In areas of high transmission of P. falciparum, where levels of acquired immunity tend to be high, women are susceptible to asymptomatic infection, which can result in maternal anaemia and placental parasitaemia, both of which can subsequently lead to low birth weight (Steketee, Wirima & Campbell, 1996).
Although there are fewer data about the role of P. vivax, there is evidence that it can also cause anaemia and low birth weight (Nosten et al., 1999). Low birth weight is an important contributor to infant mortality (McCormick, 1985; McDermott et al., 1996).
It has been estimated that malaria during pregnancy is responsible for 5–12% of all low birth weight and 35% of preventable low birth weight (Steketee, Wirima & Campbell, 1996) and contributes to 75 000 to 200 000 infant deaths each year (Steketee et al., 2001).