Pre-eclampsia and Pregnancy-induced Hypertension
Pregnant women occasionally experience an increase in blood pressure known as gestational hypertension or pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH). In a more severe condition called pre-eclampsia, a rise in blood pressure is accompanied by protein in the urine and sometimes by sudden weight gain, swelling in the face or hands, and other symptoms. When left untreated, pre-eclampsia can lead to seizures (called eclampsia) or liver, kidney, or bleeding problems in the mother and distress or growth retardation in the fetus. Unless pre-eclampsia is mild, doctors usually seek to deliver the baby early.
Principal Proposed Natural Treatments
Although there are no fully established natural treatments for the prevention of pre-eclampsia or PIH, calcium has shown significant promise.
A meta-analysis (statistical review) of 11 studies of calcium supplementation in pregnancy, involving a total of more than 6,000 women, found that calcium slightly reduced the risk of pre-eclampsia and hypertension, particularly in two groups of women: those at high risk for hypertension and/or those with low calcium intakes. 1
However, by far the largest single study in the meta-analysis found no benefits.
The meta-analysis included this negative study in its calculations, but still found that calcium seemed to be helpful.
In a subsequent double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in 2006 and conducted by the World Health Organization, calcium supplements (1.5 g per day) were tried in 8,325 pregnant women whose calcium intake was inadequate.
The bottom line: Calcium might be of some benefit for those pregnant women who are at high risk for hypertension or deficient in calcium. However, for well-nourished, low-risk women, effects are likely to be minimal or nil.
All of the above refers to preventing pre-eclampsia. One double-blind,
Calcium appears to offer the additional benefit of reducing blood levels of lead during pregnancy.
Interestingly, weak evidence hints that use of calcium by pregnant mothers might reduce risk of hypertension in their children.
For more information, including dosage and safety issues, see the full
Other Proposed Natural Treatments
The most prominent of these once-promising substances include
Other studies have looked at possible treatments of pre-eclampsia once it has already occurred. Results are somewhat positive, though mixed on the potential benefits of
One study failed to find
helpful for severe pre-eclampsia.
11. Hunt IF, Murphy NJ, Cleaver AE, et al. Zinc supplementation during pregnancy: effects on selected blood constituents and on progress and outcome of pregnancy in low-income women of Mexican descent. Am J Clin Nutr. 1984;40:508-521.
13. Moutquin JM, Garner PR, Burrows RF, et al. Report of the Canadian Hypertension Society Consensus Conference: 2. Nonpharmacologic management and prevention of hypertensive disorders in pregnancy. CMAJ. 1997;157:907-919.
16. Bulstra-Ramakers MT, Huisjes HJ, Visser GH. The effects of 3 g eicosapentaenoic acid daily on recurrence of intrauterine growth retardation and pregnancy induced hypertension. Br J Obstet Gynaecol. 1995;102:123-126.
18. The Magpie Trial Collaborative Group. Do women with pre-eclampsia, and their babies, benefit from magnesium sulphate? The Magpie Trial: a randomised placebo-controlled trial. Lancet. 2002;359:1877-1890.
19. Rudnicki M, Frolich A, Rasmussen WF, et al. The effect of magnesium on maternal blood pressure in pregnancy-induced hypertension. A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 1991;70:445-450.
26. Rytlewski K, Olszanecki R, Korbut R et al. Effects of prolonged oral supplementation with l-arginine on blood pressure and nitric oxide synthesis in pre-eclampsia. Eur J Clin Invest . 2005;35:32-37.
30. Rytlewski K, Olszanecki R, Korbut R et al. Effects of prolonged oral supplementation with l-arginine on blood pressure and nitric oxide synthesis in pre-eclampsia. Eur J Clin Invest . 2005;35:32-37.
31. Roes EM, Raijmakers MT, Boo TM et al. Oral N-acetylcysteine administration does not stabilise the process of established severe pre-eclampsia. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol . 2005 Oct 19 [Epub ahead of print].
35. Villar J, Purwar M, Merialdi M, et al. World Health Organisation multicentre randomised trial of supplementation with vitamins C and E among pregnant women at high risk for pre-eclampsia in populations of low nutritional status from developing countries. BJOG. 2009;116:780-788.
Last reviewed September 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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