Background: Various factors contribute to severe anemia in pregnancy in low-income countries. This study assesses which of these are of importance in rural Ghana, and evaluates management.
Methods: Prospective case-control study in two (sub)district hospitals in rural Ghana among 175 severely anemic pregnant women (Hb < 8.0 g/dl), receiving a comprehensive treatment package; and 152 non-anemic pregnant women (Hb > or = 10.9 g/dl), giving birth at the study hospitals, matched for age and parity. Evaluated characteristics were need for treatment for urinary tract infection and schistosomiasis; sickle cell and HIV status; antenatal care characteristics; and Hb increase after treatment. Statistical analysis included Chi square test and general linear modeling.
Results: Associated with severe anemia were multiple pregnancy (OR 8.9; 95%CI 1.1-71.0), urinary tract infection (OR 6.2; 95%CI 3.5-11.0), residence outside study (sub)district (OR 2.7; 95%CI 1.7-4.3), body mass index < 20.0 (OR 2.0; 95%CI 1.2-3.4), and less than 4 antenatal clinic visits (OR 1.9; 95%CI 1.2-3.0). No association was found with sickle cell or HIV status, schistosomiasis treatment, blood loss in pregnancy, or gestational age at antenatal care registration. After treatment, mean Hb in the severe anemia group increased by 3.2 g/dl, significantly more than in the control group (0.2 g/dl; p<0.001). Modeling showed that the number of antenatal visits and the lowest Hb together explained approximately 25% of the variability in Hb prior to childbirth among women with severe anemia.
Conclusions: Treatable causes contribute considerably to severe anemia in pregnancy in low-income countries. Even with limited resources, a substantial increase of Hb can be achieved.