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Malaria in pregnancy is a major contributor to adverse maternal and perinatal outcome. In hyper endemic areas like ours, it is a common cause of anaemia in pregnancy in both immune and non-immune individuals and is aggravated by poor socioeconomic circumstances. The aim of this study is to assess the prevalence of asymptomatic malaria parasitaemia among pregnant women in a rural setting. 272 pregnant women, aged between 18 and 40 years in some remote rural areas of Ebonyi State, Nigeria were recruited between January 2007 and March 2008.Their blood samples were collected and examined for malaria parasite, haemoglobin and packed cell volume using standard methods. Our results showed 59.9% prevalence of parasitaemia with the highest prevalence occurring in the first trimester (84.1%).Among the positive cases, mild parasitaemia was recorded in 47.2% moderate parasitaemia in 37.4% while severe parasitaemia was recorded in 15.3% of cases. These differences were statistically significant (P<0.016). Furthermore the distribution of malaria densities in different gravidity groups showed an inverse relationship, 45.4% in primigravidae, (31.9%) in secundigravidae and (10.4%) among people with more than five pregnancies. These findings were statistically significant (P< 0.0001). The prevalence of anaemia in pregnancy in this study was 62.4%. Apart from the use of nets, drugs and vector control, the prevention of malaria in pregnancy in very poor socioeconomic settings should make provision for nutritional support.
Key words: Asymptomatic malaria parasitaemia, Anaemia, Pregnancy, poor socioeconomic settings