May 2010

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Health Capsule

Extra Vitamin C & E Don’t Reduce Pregnancy Blood Pressure Risks

Vitamin C and E supplements don’t lower the chance of developing high blood pressure problems related to pregnancy, according to a new study.

High blood pressure can be dangerous during pregnancy. It can harm the mother’s kidneys and other organs, and it can cause low birth weight and early delivery of the baby. In the most serious cases, the mother can develop a condition called preeclampsia that can threaten the lives of both the mother and her unborn child.

Some small studies had suggested that vitamins C and E might reduce these risks. To take a closer look, NIH-funded researchers conducted a large-scale study that enrolled over 10,000 generally healthy pregnant women. The women received either a sugar pill or daily supplements of vitamins C and E with about 10 times the amount in typical prenatal vitamins. The women continued with any pregnancy vitamins they were already taking.

The researchers found that the supplements failed to reduce the risk of pregnancy-related high blood pressure, or hypertension. In addition, the vitamins seemed to have no effect on preeclampsia or other hypertension-related problems, including stress on the kidneys, miscarriage, an underweight baby or preterm delivery.

“The study results effectively rule out vitamin C and E supplements as a means to prevent the hypertensive disorders seen in pregnancy,” says Dr. Alan E. Guttmacher, acting director of NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.