oa South African Family Practice - Risk factors for anaemia in pregnancy in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa : implication for health education and health promotion : original research

Volume 51, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 2078-6190
  • E-ISSN: 2078-6204



: Anaemia in pregnancy is a major public health problem in developing countries. It is associated with an increased risk of maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality. A high rate of anaemia in pregnancy in the rural population of KwaZulu-Natal (30% according to national and 57% according to the World Health Organization [WHO] definition of anaemia in pregnancy) is observed. The risk factors for anaemia, particularly during pregnancy, are multiple and complex and their relative contributions are known to vary by geographic areas and by seasons. In order to design an intervention for treatment and prevention of anaemia in pregnancy, studies to assess the aetiological factors are necessary. The aim of this study was to evaluate the strength of association between intestinal helminthiasis, urinary schistosomiasis and HIV infection on anaemia in pregnancy.

: A retrospective case-control study design was used in a rural district hospital of South Africa. A total of 300 pregnant women, 100 of them with anaemia (haemoglobin less than 10 gm/dL according to the national definition of anaemia in pregnancy) referred as cases and 200 controls were studied from Empangeni Hospital. Both cases and controls were matched for age, parity and gestational age. Data were collected from the antenatal clinic and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) programme registers for cases and controls at their booking visit during the months of May, June and July of 2004. Univariate and multiple logistic regression were performed to analyse the data.
: Of the cases, 48% and 1% among the controls had intestinal helminthiasis, resulting in the odds ratio of 42 (p = 0,000 and 95% CI 9,96 - 176.59). The risk of anaemia was related to urinary schistosomiasis, as 27% of the cases compared to 1% of controls was found with anaemia. The odds ratio was 12 (p = 0,000 and 95% CI 3.58 - 41.02). These parasitic infestations are known to cause chronic haemorrhage and iron deficiency resulting in the development of anaemia in pregnancy. Transmissions of intestinal parasitic infestation occur through the faecal-oral route. Personal hygiene and other environmental factors are therefore an important factor for the transmission of the disease. To reduce the transmission of faecaloral diseases (e.g. intestinal helminthiasis and urinary schistosomiasis) key interventions recommended are: 1) safe disposal of human excreta, 2) hand-washing practices with soap after defecation, and 3) maintenance of drinking water free from faecal contamination. Similarly, HIV infection increased the chance of developing anaemia in pregnancy twofold as HIV infection was more common among cases (56%) than among controls (37%), resulting in an odds ratio of 2.11 (p = 0,003 and 95% CI 1.123 - 3.21). The prevention of HIV infection and transmission can be achieved through the improvement of knowledge of these conditions. These can be achieved through health education and health promotion.
: These findings confirm and conform to other studies on the association between anaemia in pregnancy and parasitic and HIV infections. Antenatal care should promote de-worming and education on personal hygiene and HIV (risk factors, mode of transmission, etc.). The provision of safe water supply and toilet facilities for the rural communities should be considered urgently to prevent and promote better health for all, including pregnant women.

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