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Calcium supplementation for the Prevention of Pre-eclampsia

Pre-eclampsia is a major cause of death in pregnant women and newborn babies worldwide. Preterm birth is often caused by high blood pressure and is the leading cause of newborn deaths.

Pre-eclampsia and eclampsia are common causes of serious morbidity and death. Calcium supplementation may reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia through a number of mechanisms, and may help to prevent preterm birth.

To assess the effects of calcium supplementation during pregnancy on hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and related maternal and child outcomes, a recent Cochrane meta-analysis reviewed 13 randomised controlled trials involving 15,730 women.  All trials compared at least 1 gram of daily calcium supplementation during pregnancy with placebo.

The study found that the average risk of high blood pressure and preterm birth was reduced in the calcium group. There was also a reduction in the average risk of pre-eclampsia associated with calcium group.  Calcium supplementation appears to approximately halve the risk of pre-eclampsia, to reduce the risk of preterm birth and to reduce the occurrence of the composite outcome ‘death or serious morbidity’. The effect was greatest for women with low dietary calcium intake at baseline and those selected as being at high risk.

The study authors found that calcium supplementation during pregnancy is a safe and relatively cheap means of reducing the risk of pre-eclampsia in women at increased risk, and women from communities with low dietary calcium. No adverse effects have been found but further research is needed into the ideal dosage for supplementation.

Hofmeyr GJ, Lawrie TA, Atallah ÁN, Duley L. Calcium supplementation during pregnancy for preventing hypertensive disorders and related problems. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 8. Art. No.: CD001059. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001059.pub3

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