Malaria is an important cause of anaemia in primigravidae: evidence from a district hospital in coastal Kenya

Shulman CE, Graham WJ, Jilo H, Lowe BS, New L, Obiero J, Snow RW, Marsh K
Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 1996;90

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A study was undertaken in order to determine the prevalence and aetiology of anaemia in pregnancy in coastal Kenya, so as to establish locally important causes and enable the development of appropriate intervention strategies. 275 women attending the antenatal clinic at Kilifi district hospital, Kenya, were recruited in November 1993. The prevalence of anaemia (haemoglobin [Hb] < 11 g/dL) was 75.6%, and the prevalence of severe anaemia (Hb < 7g/dL) was 9.8% among all parities; 15.3% of 73 primigravidae were severely anaemic, compared with 7.9% of 202 multigravidae (P = 0.07). In primigravidae, malaria infection (Plasmodium falciparum) was strongly associated with moderate and severe anaemia (chi 2 test for trend, P = 0.003). Severe anaemia was more than twice as common in women with peripheral parasitaemia as in those who were aparasitaemic, and parasitaemia was associated with a 2.2g/dL decrease in mean haemoglobin level (P < 0.001). In multigravidae, iron deficiency and hookworm infection were the dominant risk factors for anaemia. Folate deficiency and human immunodeficiency virus infection were not strongly associated with anaemia. It is suggested that an intervention that can effectively reduce malaria infection in primigravidae could have a major impact on the health of these women and their infants.