Preeclampsia, a pregnancy-related complication characterized by elevated blood pressure and proteinuria (high levels of protein in the urine). Swelling of the feet, hands and legs is usually seen. If left unattended, the condition can worsen further resulting in seizures. Under worst conditions, it can result in death of the pregnant mother and the baby, before, after or during childbirth.
About 8,300 pregnant women, about their 20th week of pregnancy were recruited for the study. All the women had inadequate level of calcium supplementation owing to a poor diet (<50% of the recommended calcium intake). It is recommended that pregnant women receive about 1000 to 1300 mg of calcium on a daily basis, either through diet or supplements.
The study participants from Vietnam, Argentina, Egypt, India, South Africa and Peru were randomly provided with either calcium tablets (1500 mg of calcium carbonate) in a chewable form or a placebo.
Both the control and experimental group had comparable rates of preeclampsia (4.5 Vs 4.1% respectively). The incidence of complication related to preeclampsia, was however found to be lower in those who had consumed the calcium supplement. Furthermore, young women on calcium supplementation were found to have a reduced risk of premature delivery.
The compliance rates of the study participants were high. This could be responsible for the lower incidence of preeclampsia related complication. It is not clear how calcium works to reduce the associated risk. The researchers have highlighted the need for further studies to establish the beneficial effects of calcium supplementation for enhancement of maternal and child health.