A Consultant Medical Parasitologist, Prof. Wellington Oyibo, has advised pregnant women to always consult medical doctors whenever they want to take anti-malaria medicines to prevent birth defects.
Oyibo of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Parasitology, University of Lagos, Idi-Araba, gave the advice in Lagos on Tuesday.
According to him, there are certain drugs a woman in pregnancy should not take on her own decision.
“That is why when a woman is pregnant and in her first trimester, she needs to focus on antenatal care visit and follow the recommended pregnancy management practices.
“Early antenatal bookings will help every pregnant woman; at the clinic, she would be advised on all the things that she needs to do.
“Early booking is important for every pregnant woman irrespective of how many births she has undergone.
“There, she would meet with experienced doctors and nurses that would guide and instruct her on when, how and what anti-malaria medicines to take and at the right time,” Oyibo said.
The medical parasitologist also said that when a woman becomes pregnant, her immunity reduces then, malaria parasite would have a knack to go to the placenta.
Oyibo, also a Principal Investigator at the African Networks for Drug and Diagnostic Innovation (ANDI), an International Centre for Malaria Microscopy and Malaria Rapid Diagnosis Tests Quality Assurance Centre, said malaria in pregnancy was asymptomatic.
He said malaria would not show any sign in a pregnant woman but the parasite would penetrate the placenta and affect the growth and development of the child.
He advised women to be cautious about malaria and its effects, saying that malaria can be scary that what they may have suffered might not be caused by other things other than by malaria.
Oyibo said: “Malaria can cause spontaneous abortion, malaria will bring about the poor development of the foetus causing what is called ‘intrauterine growths reduction or retardation’, meaning within the placenta itself, the foetus is not growing the way it should grow.
“So at the end, its consequence is that the woman will now give birth to a child that has low birth weight.
“The woman may not have fever; she may not have any signs of the diseases because the parasite is there.
“The presence of the parasite inside the foetus in a pregnant woman can lead to maternal anaemia, which can even lead to death due to shortage of blood.
“Anaemia can also lead to preterm deliveries, that is `premature babies’ as some people call it.
“Preterm deliveries and spontaneous abortion are critical and are related to malaria causes, and not witchcraft as some women think.”