In malaria-endemic areas, pregnant women and especially first-time mothers are more susceptible to Plasmodium falciparum. Malaria diagnosis is often missed during pregnancy, since many women with placental malaria remain asymptomatic or have submicroscopic parasitemia, masking the association between malaria and pregnancy outcomes Severe maternal anemia and low birthweight deliveries are well-established sequelae, but few studies have confirmed the relationship between malaria infection and severe outcomes like perinatal mortality in high transmission zones.
Pregnant women of any gestational age enrolled at antenatal clinic into a longitudinal cohort study in Ouelessebougou, Mali, an area of high seasonal malaria transmission. Follow-up visits included scheduled and unscheduled visits throughout pregnancy. Blood smear microscopy and PCR analysis were employed to detect both microscopic and submicroscopic infections, respectively. Intermittent preventative treatment in pregnancy with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (IPTp-SP) was documented and prompt treatment regardless of symptoms given upon malaria diagnosis.
Of the 1850 women followed through delivery, 72.6% of women received 2 or more IPTp-SP doses, 67.2% of women experienced at least one infection between enrollment up to and including delivery. Malaria infection increased the risks of stillbirth (adjusted-hazard ratio (aHR) 3.87, 95%CI 1.18-12.71) and preterm delivery (aHR 2.41, 95%CI 1.35-4.29) in primigravidae, and early neonatal death (death within 7 days) in secundigravidae and multigravidae (HR 6.30, 95%CI 1.41-28.15).
Malaria treatment after diagnosis, alongside IPTp-SP, is insufficient to prevent malaria-related stillbirth, early neonatal death and PTD. While IPTp-SP was beneficial in Mali during the study period, new tools are needed to improve pregnancy outcomes.

Published by Oxford University Press for the Infectious Diseases Society of America 2021. This work is written by (a) US Government employee(s) and is in the public domain in the US.