Preeclampsia is the leading cause of preterm birth and maternal death associated with pregnancy worldwide. It is responsible for nearly 76,000 maternal deaths in the U.S. each year. Infant death is five times greater in pregnancies where preeclampsia is present.
Preeclampsia is a progressive condition identified by high blood pressure and protein in the urine. Preeclampsia affects between 5% and 8% of all pregnancies; usually occurring after 20 weeks of gestation. The only cure for preeclampsia is delivery. Some symptoms of preeclampsia are:
• Rapid weight gain
• Vision problems
Other related conditions are:
• Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH)
The causes of preeclampsia
The causes of preeclampsia are not clear however, some experts suggest that high body fat, poor blood flow to the uterus and poor nutrition are prominent factors. Recent studies have discussed the role of vitamin D deficiency in preeclampsia. Some experts suggest that the role of vitamin D in preeclampsia is associated with the manner in which vitamin D affects protein function in the placenta as well as placental development.
A University of Pittsburgh study found that women who have a vitamin D deficiency in the early stages of pregnancy are five times more likely to experience preeclampsia. Many of the women in the study who tested low on vitamin D were taking prenatal vitamins. The study reported that even slightly lower than normal vitamin D levels increased the chances of preeclampsia by 50%. Newborns born to women who are deficient in vitamin D also have low levels of vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a variety of physical and mental illnesses including:
• Rickets: a condition associated with soft bones and compromised skeletal structure.
• Osteomalacia: A condition that is associated with bone pain and weak muscles.
• Type I Diabetes
• Type II Diabetes
• Heart disease
Good sources of Vitamin D
The body manufactures vitamin D when the skin absorbs sunlight. Exposure to sunlight between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., for approximately 15 minutes, two times per week will provide proper amounts of vitamin D. However, many lifestyle and diet choices can affect the time an individual may be exposed to sunlight and the amount of vitamin D absorbed by the body. Other good sources of vitamin D are:
• Fish: Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel
• Beef liver
• Cod liver oil
• Fortified food: Milk, cereals, juices and cheese
• Vitamin D supplements
The recommended amount of vitamin D for pregnant women is 200 IU to 400 IU, the level contained in prenatal vitamins. However, due to recent evidence, some suggest that amount should be raised. Pregnant women should consult their physician before making any changes to their diets or dietary supplements.