Can I take malaria tablets 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.

Malaria and pregnancy

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

Malaria is spread by mosquito bites and is most common in tropical countries. In 2012, more than 1,300 people in the UK got malaria after catching it abroad. Two of these people died.

If you're pregnant and can't 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 malaria tablets 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 will 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 don't 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 is a lack of evidence that it is 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 to 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:

Malaria

Malaria is a tropical disease. It is spread by mosquitoes infected with malaria parasites. In this video, an expert explains how malaria attacks different areas of the body, and what you can do to avoid getting infected.

Media last reviewed: 31/01/2014

Next review due: 31/01/2016

Page last reviewed: 15/05/2013

Next review due: 14/05/2015