Correlation between placental malaria parasitaemia at delivery and infant birth weight in a Nigerian tertiary health centre
Background: Untreated malaria during pregnancy is detrimental to the health and survival of the mother, foetus and neonate due to its great potential to cause maternal anaemia, foetal death and intrauterine growth restriction leading to low birth weight. The foetal complications are due to impaired placental function that results from placental malaria parasitaemia as well as impaired foetal oxygenation from maternal anaemia. This study was conducted to determine the influence of placental malaria parasitaemia on infant birth weight.
Methodology: This was a prospective cross-sectional analytical study of 205 parturients recruited consecutively as they presented for delivery at the Federal Medical Centre, Yenagoa. An interviewer-administered questionnaire was used to collect data. After delivery, the neonates were weighed and placental blood was collected for microscopy to detect malaria parasites. Data was analysed using SPSS version 22.
Results: The prevalence of placental malaria parasitaemia was 13.7% and Plasmodium falciparum was the only parasite species detected. Placental malaria parasitaemia was associated with a reduction of the mean infant birth weight by 335 grams (P = 0.01).
Conclusion: Malaria during pregnancy is still an important public health problem among our obstetric population, with a high prevalence of placental malaria parasitaemia and a significant negative effect on the birth weight of neonates. To enable the developing foetus achieve its full genetic growth potential, pregnant women should be encouraged to register early for antenatal care and utilize all the recommended malaria preventive measures.
Keywords: Placenta, malaria infestation, birth weight