Today is World Malaria Day. As with many other health issues, such as neglected tropical diseases, HIV/AIDS, and nutrition, there are intricate links between malaria and maternal health.
A 2010 paper by Dellicour et al. estimates that over 50 million pregnancies occur in areas with stable transmission of P. falciparum malaria (the most lethal strain). The authors also estimate that 10,000 pregnant women die as a result of malaria infection each year. While this represents only a small percentage of all maternal deaths, they are largely preventable. Not only does malaria threaten the life of a mother, but also it “increases the risk of maternal anemia; stillbirth; spontaneous abortion; low birth weight; [and] neonatal death,” according to the World Health Organization.
A 2007 paper from The Lancet Infectious Diseases estimates from a meta-analysis that preventing malaria infections in pregnancy “reduces the risk of severe maternal anaemia by 38%, low birthweight by 43%, and perinatal mortality by 27% among paucigravidae [women in their first or second pregnancies].” The low birth weight for infants results in an estimated 100,000 infant death per year in Africa alone.
Given the linkages between maternal health and malaria, on World Malaria Day, let’s hope maternal health experts are thinking about the impact of malaria and vice versa.
More on malaria and maternal health:
Malaria in Pregnancy Consortium
Malaria in Pregnancy Resource Package (JHPIEGO)
Roll Back Malaria
Global Malaria Action Plan
Malaria Policy Center
Op-Ed: On World Malaria Day, renewing our commitment to maternal health and fighting malaria