Science continues to catch up with what midwives have always known. Many conditions in pregnancy, including pre-eclampsia, are strongly affected by diet. Two articles in the past week explore the possible link between increased risk for pre-eclampsia and diet. One article, "Maternal vitamin D deficiency increases pre-eclampsia risk" noted that "vitamin D deficiency at less than 22 weeks gestation was a strong, independent risk factor for pre-eclampsia."1 In the second article "Diet, gestational hypertension and pre-eclampsia" researchers found that higher intakes of fish appeared to lower the risk of pre-eclampsia.2 To date science claims no known cause of pre-eclampsia while midwives (and some physicians) have seen clear links between pre-eclampsia and diet.
More thoughts on pre-eclampsia and diet follow from Dr. Michel Odent. Please click on the link to read Dr. Odent's full comment on prenatal nutrition in Midwifery Today's E-News.
Where preeclampsia and eclampsia are concerned, we are able to establish links with several controlled trials of the effects of fish oil supplementation during pregnancy (although eating fish should not be confused with taking capsules). Our research also reflects statistics associated with the comparatively low rate of preeclampsia in countries where the diet is rich in sea fish. My theoretical vision of human preeclampsia also takes into consideration studies of fatty acid profiles of red blood cells, which mirrors the dietary fat intake over a two to three week period. According to a study conducted in Seattle, women with the lowest levels of omega 3 are 7.6 times more likely to be preeclamptic than those with the highest levels. I propose a hierarchy between the numerous biological imbalances associated with preeclampsia. The central imbalance, in my view, is the enormous discrepancy between the blood levels of DHA (the molecule essential for brain development) and the other polyunsaturates. In preeclampsia, the level of DHA remains stable. It does not drop dramatically like the level of other polyunsaturates. The price is an imbalance inside the family of omega 3 fatty acids and finally in the whole system of prostaglandins (I would need pages to enter into all the details). Such data suggest that brain development is a priority among humans: whatever the circumstances, the levels of one of the most important molecules for brain development remain stable. In order to simplify very complex phenomena, I propose to distinguish two critical phases in the genesis of preeclampsia. The first phase is in relation to the response of the maternal immune system at the time of placental implantation (this is confirmed by the fact that a previous miscarriage, a previous blood transfusion, or a long sexual cohabitation before conception reduces the risks of preclampsia). The second phase--the one that is influenced by nutrition--occurs later in pregnancy, when the fetal brain development is the most rapid and the demand in specific nutrients, and in particular long chain fatty acids, is maximum. Then the onset of a vicious cycle is possible, that is to say the disease preeclampsia. Preeclampsia appears as the price some human beings must pay for having a large brain while the nutritional supplies are not appropriate. 3
If I were a researcher, I would follow midwives around and document their work.
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1 Diet, gestational hypertension and pre-eclampsia, Issue 18: 3 September 2007, Source: Annals of Epidemiology 2007;17:663-8, from ORGYN Online Magazine, http://www.orgyn.com/en/webzine/2007/Issue_18/Diet__gestational_hy.asp, accessed Sept. 14, 2007.
2 Maternal vitamin D deficiency increases pre-eclampsia risk. Source:Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2007;92:3517-3522, from ORGYN Online Magazine, http://www.orgyn.com/en/news/2007/Week_37/Day_1/Maternal_vitamin_D_d.asp?C=71129393396790162037, accessed Sept. 14, 2007.
3 Midwifery Today E-News, January 9, 1999 Volume 1, Issue 2, http://midwiferytoday.com/enews/enews0102.asp, accessed Sept. 14, 2007.