FOR women, pregnancy is a time of joy. But it is also a time when otherwise young healthy women develop some serious medical problems. However, women nurturing life in their wombs can escape one such complication by just taking a simple precaution of adding calcium in their diet.
Nurturing the baby within the safe confines of her body means a lot of stress for the mother. A major risk to the pregnant woman is a high blood pres- sure-related condition called preeclampsia. Now a team of Canadian researchers say that calcium intakes during pregnancy reduce blood pressure and anxiety. They reported this after tallying the results of 14 clinical trials, testing the benefits of calcium supplements in preventing high blood pressure and preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia is a set of symptoms, occuring during pregnancy, that include extremely high blood pressure, anxiety, chest pain, headache and blurred vision. The disease, which affects one out of every 20 women, can be treated with bed-rest in mild cases, or in more serious cases, with infusions of salt- water and possible early delivery of the baby. It is reported that about one out of every 200 women with preeclampsia progresses to full eclampsia a condition that leads to potentially fatal complications involving convulsions and coma. Both mild and serious forms of the disease usually develop after the 20th week of pregnancy.
Researchers at two universities in Canada, the McMaster University in Hamilton and University of Waterloo in Ontario, undertook the study involving 2,459 pregnant women. The research indicated that calcium supplements reduced blood pressure and cut the risk of preeclampsia by 62 per cent. "Our overview suggests that calcium supplementation can bring relief to approximately two-third of the women who would otherwise suffer," say researchers. The dosage adopted in the clinical trials was about 1,500 to 2,000 milligrams per day for each patient, that is about four servings of dairy products a day.
The analysis found that calcium reduces the systolic blood pressure, the larger figure in blood pressure measurement, by 5.4 millimetres of mercury on the blood pressure gauge and reduces the diastolic pressure, the lower figure, by 3.44 millimetres. The new report boosts the contentions that calcium deficiency may underlie high blood pressure in other people as well, besides pregnant women. David A McCarron of Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, USA, argues that high blood pressure develops in people whose calcium consumption is below their biological requirements.
Besides the possible benefits to the general public, "It seems reasonable that pregnant women would benefit the most from calcium because their natural sup- ply of the mineral is drained by the needs of the foetus," points out McCarron.
Scientists feel that high blood pressure and the associated complications in expectant mothers can be tack- led by recommending dairy products and calcium supplements for pregnant women. The study is being considered significant, being the most rigorous analysis of the effect of calcium on these populations.