|Table of Contents|
Leprosy in pregnancy – a review of the literature
Leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, is one of the world’s oldest infectious diseases. It affects the skin and nerves and, if left untreated, leads to deformity. Every 2 minutes someone is diagnosed with leprosy, but, because of the lack of education and the stigma surrounding the disease, some people are diagnosed too late and develop life-changing disabilities. Through a simple course of medication, leprosy is an entirely curable disease. Literature, such as reported cases and review papers, on leprosy in pregnancy was obtained using various internet search engines. Leprosy in pregnancy is a rarely reported event, but nine countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America have considered it a public health problem. An effective cure for leprosy is available in the form of multidrug therapy, taken for some months, but if treatment is delayed until a later stage, there is a high risk of disability. Pregnancy is hazardous for women with leprosy. It is most dangerous during the third trimester when infection can lead to adverse obstetric and fetal outcomes, such as low birthweight, prematurity, exfoliative dermatitis in the newborn and erythema nodosum in the pregnant mother. Documentation on leprosy in pregnancy indicates that pregnancy is not only a trigger for leprosy but also an ideal in vivo model for research. Leprosy in pregnancy can be treated safely and effectively by combined drug therapy. However, early detection, well-planned health education for leprosy patients and the highest standard of clinical supervision during pregnancy are key strategies in reducing problems associated with the disease and are also the best way to prevent disability.