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Health & Pregnancy

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Vitamin C No Help for Preeclampsia

Vitamins C and E Offer No Protection Against Pregnancy-Related High Blood Pressure Disorders, Study Finds
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

April 8, 2010 -- Taking high doses of vitamins C and E does not protect against a common and potentially fatal high blood pressure disorder during pregnancy, a large, government study confirms.

More than 10,000 pregnant women took part in the National Institutes of Health-funded trial, designed to determine if average-risk women could lower their risk of developing preeclampsia by taking vitamin C and E supplements starting early in pregnancy.

Several small studies reported in the 1990s suggested a role for vitamin C and E in the prevention of preeclampsia and other pregnancy-related high blood pressure disorders, but the large trial failed to show any benefit.

The findings appear in the April 8 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

“The study results effectively rule out vitamin C and E supplements as a means to prevent the hypertensive disorders during pregnancy,” Alan Guttmacher, MD, of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), says in a news release.

Preeclampsia Endangers Mother, Baby

Occurring in between 5% and 8% of pregnancies, preeclampsia is characterized by dangerously high increases in blood pressure coupled with a rise in protein in the urine indicative of kidney stress.

The condition typically occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy, but it can develop earlier.

Preeclampsia affects the placenta, and it is a leading cause of childbirth complications, including low-birth weight, premature birth, and stillbirth.

It is also the second leading cause of pregnancy-related maternal deaths in the U.S., according to National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), which co-funded the study with NICHD.

The cure for preeclampsia is delivery, and there is no proven way to prevent the disorder.

The causes of pregnancy-related hypertension are poorly understood, but one theory suggests that damage from molecules known as free radicals plays a role. Free radicals occur as a byproduct when the body uses oxygen.

Antioxidants like vitamins C and E interfere with free radicals and are thought to reduce free radical damage.

The Study Findings

In the newly published study, all the enrolled women were delivering for the first time.

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