e-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions (eLENA)

Calcium supplementation during pregnancy for the prevention of pre-eclampsia

Hypertensive disorders* such as pre-eclampsia and eclampsia are among the main causes of maternal deaths and preterm births, especially in low-income countries. Preterm births are the leading cause of early neonatal deaths and infant mortality, and survivors are at higher risk of respiratory disease and long-term neurological morbidity.

Normally, during early pregnancy, blood pressure falls and then slowly rises until the end of pregnancy. However, obesity, diabetes, twin or teenage pregnancies and low calcium consumption alter this equilibrium and increase the risk of developing pre-eclampsia. Calcium supplementation improves calcium intake and consequently reduces the risk of hypertensive disorders during pregnancy.

*disorders in which blood pressure is elevated

WHO recommendations

In populations where calcium intake is low, calcium supplementation as part of the antenatal care is recommended for the prevention of pre-eclampsia in pregnant women, particularly among those at higher risk of developing hypertension.


Additional information, including a suggested scheme for supplementation, can be found in the guidance summary, and in the guidelines under 'WHO documents' below.

WHO documents

GRC-approved guidelines


Systematic reviews used to develop the guidelines
Related Cochrane reviews
Other related systematic reviews
Clinical trials

Last update:

12 May 2016 12:09 CEST

Category 1 intervention

Guidelines have been recently approved by the WHO Guidelines Review Committee

Essential Nutrition Actions

This intervention is an Essential Nutrition Action targeting the first 1000 days of life.

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