Can I take anti-malaria medication if I'm pregnant?

If you're pregnant, ideally you should not go to a place where malaria is present. If you have to travel, speak to your GP before taking any anti-malaria medication.

Ideally, you should not go to a place where there is malaria if you're pregnant. If you have to travel, speak to your GP before taking any anti-malaria medication.

Malaria and pregnancy

Malaria is a serious illness, particularly for pregnant women. It can result in severe illness or death, and affects both the mother and unborn baby.

Malaria is spread by mosquito bites and is most common in tropical countries. Approximately 1,500 travellers are diagnosed with malaria in the UK each year.

If you're pregnant and cannot delay or cancel your trip, get your GP's advice before you travel. You need to start taking some anti-malaria medicines before you travel, so seek advice well before your departure date.

Taking anti-malaria medication while pregnant

Your GP will advise you which, if any, anti-malaria medication to take. Remember to take it regularly and exactly as prescribed.

The type of medication you're prescribed will depend on where you're going, as the parasites that cause malaria vary around the world. Your GP will have up-to-date information about the most effective anti-malaria medication for your destination.

You can take some anti-malaria medicines safely during pregnancy, but should avoid others.

For example: 

  • Chloroquine and proguanil (usually combined) can be used in pregnancy, but may not offer enough protection against malaria in many regions, including Africa. You'll also need to take a 5mg supplement of folic acid if you're taking proguanil. If you're in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, remember to continue with your usual 400 microgram folic acid supplement after you stop taking the proguanil – while you're taking the 5mg supplement, you do not need to take the 400 micrograms as well.
  • Mefloquine should not be taken during your first trimester (the first 12 weeks of pregnancy).
  • Doxycycline should not be taken at all during pregnancy.
  • Atovaquone/proguanil should not be taken at all during pregnancy as there's a lack of evidence that it's safe to use in pregnancy.

What if I'm trying for a baby?

If you're due to travel to a place where malaria is present, you should delay trying for a baby while you're taking anti-malaria medication.

For more information, see Can I take malaria tablets if I'm trying for a baby?

Avoid mosquito bites

While you're overseas, taking the steps below will help you avoid mosquito bites:

  • use a mosquito repellent on your skin – choose one specifically recommended for use in pregnancy and apply it often, following the manufacturer's instructions
  • cover your arms and legs by wearing long-sleeved tops and long trousers after sunset
  • use a spray or coil in your room to kill any mosquitoes before you go to bed
  • sleep in a properly screened air-conditioned room or under a mosquito net that's been treated with insecticide – make sure the net is not broken
  • ideally, pregnant women should remain indoors between dusk and dawn

Read the answers to more questions about medicines.

Further information:

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