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.
WHO recommends that in areas of low calcium intake, calcium supplementation during pregnancy should be given for the prevention of pre-eclampsia in all women, particularly those who are at high risk of developing this condition. Ideally, supplements should be given along with counselling to promote adequate dietary practices.
Systematic reviews used to develop the guidelines
- Calcium supplementation during pregnancy for preventing hypertensive disorders and related problems
- Calcium supplementation (other than for preventing or treating hypertension) for improving pregnancy and infant outcomes