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Preventing high blood pressure in pregnancy with magnesium supplements

Preventing high blood pressure in pregnancy

Any pregnant mum will tell you how important it is to have a healthy pregnancy. For some women high blood pressure can cause problems in pregnancy and make the pregnancy higher risk. This occurs in around 1 in 10 pregnancies. Women who take magnesium supplements are less likely to develop high blood pressure in the third trimester. Having an adequate level of magnesium appears to help to keep blood pressure levels stable throughout the pregnancy. This is encouraging news for women whose midwives have concerns about their blood pressure levels in pregnancy.

Pregnant women who have high blood pressure as well as protein in their urine may be diagnosed with a condition called pre-eclampsia. In most cases, pre-eclampsia does not lead to problems for mum and baby but there is unfortunately a risk of serious health consequences. Pre-eclampsia could lead to eclampsia (where the expectant mum experiences fits) which, although rare, could be fatal for mum and baby.

Research shows that magnesium seems to be related to blood pressure in pregnancy. One study looked into the effect of taking a magnesium supplement on blood pressure levels. The study showed that by week 37 (when a baby is considered to be full term) taking a magnesium supplement led to significantly less likelihood of having high blood pressure. The study also found that taking magnesium supplements kept blood pressure levels under control throughout pregnancy.

Taking a magnesium supplement does not appear have any effect on the length of pregnancy, length of labour or baby's birth weight.  It is just the benefit to blood pressure levels which is really encouraging for pregnant mums.

This all suggests that pregnant women who are deficient in magnesium are more likely to have high blood pressure and so more likely to suffer from pre-eclampsia. Women can naturally increase their magnesium levels by eating food rich in magnesium such as:  Bananas, dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds and avocados. It's also important to be aware that if your urine is too acidic, your body will lose more magnesium. This means it's important to eat enough fresh vegetables and to moderate your intake of protein in order to keep your urine acid levels normal.

Having normal blood pressure levels is important for all pregnant mums. The findings about the benefits of magnesium supplements in reducing the risk of high blood pressure in pregnancy has the potential to achieve healthier mums and babies, and has positive implications for their pregnancy, birth and health beyond.

Written 1st July 2015


Bullarbo, M. Et al., (2013). Magnesium supplementation to prevent high blood pressure in pregnancy: a randomised placebo control trial. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 288. p. 1269-1274

Laura-Jane Marsden is a writer with a special interest in pregnancy, birth and parenting.  She works for Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond Pty Ltd. Her passion is to see breastfeeding accepted as normal feeding worldwide.

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