Timing of intermittent preventive treatment for malaria during pregnancy and the implications of current policy on early uptake in north-east Tanzania

Katherine Anders, Tanya Marchant, Pili Chambo, Pasiens Mapunda and Hugh Reyburn. Malaria Journal 2008, 7:79
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Intermittent preventive treatment (IPTp) is efficacious in reducing the adverse outcomesassociated with pregnancy-associated malaria, however uptake of the recommended two doses is low inTanzania, and little is known of the timepoint during pregnancy at which it is delivered. This studyinvestigated the timing of delivery of IPTp to pregnant women attending antenatal clinics (ANC), and thepotential determinants of timely uptake.


Structured interviews were conducted with staff and pregnant women at antenatal clinics in northeast Tanzania, and antenatal consultations were observed. Facility-based and individual factors were analysed for any correlation with timing of IPTp uptake.


Almost half the women interviewed first attended ANC during or before the fourth month ofgestation, however 86% of these early attendees did not receive IPTp on their first visit. The timing of IPTp delivery complied closely with the national guidelines which stipulate giving the first dose at 20–24 weeks gestation. Uptake of at least one dose of IPTp among women who had reached this gestation age was 67%, although this varied considerably between clinics. At one facility, IPTp was not delivered because SP was out of stock. Conclusion: Early uptake of IPTp was found to be hampered by factors external to health worker performance or women's individual preferences. These include insufficient drug stocks and an apparent lack of information to health workers on the reasoning for continued use of SP for IPTp when it has been replaced as a first-line treatment. In addition, an unexpectedly high proportion of women attend antenatal clinics before 20 weeks of pregnancy. While current policy denies the use of IPTp at this time, there is emerging, but incomplete, evidence that malaria in early pregnancy may contribute considerably to the burden of pregnancy-related malaria. Current policy may thus result in a missed opportunity for maximising the benefit of this intervention, and efforts to encourage earlier attendance at ANC alone are unlikely to improve uptake of IPTp. More evidence is needed to weigh the benefits of early IPTp use against theoretical risks of antifolate drugs in early pregnancy.