When it comes to managing the risks of pregnancy, we’ve come a long way in a short time.
A century ago, pregnancy was a leading cause of death for young women. Even fifty years ago, about 1 in 1,000 mothers died in childbirth, compared to less than .05 today.
But bringing a new life into the world is still one of the riskiest experiences a woman will have. And when things go wrong suddenly, often eclampsia is to blame.
Eclampsia: What It Is
As the name suggests, preeclampsia precedes eclampsia, the full-blown condition. Not everyone who gets pre-eclampsia will develop eclampsia.
Preeclampsia is “a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure, hyperactive reflexes, edema, headaches, changes in vision, and protein in the urine”. When preeclampsia escalates and causes seizures, it is diagnosed as eclampsia. “Eclampsia is a serious condition that can cause premature labor; premature birth, and cerebral palsy in the newborn.” (Dean, The Magnesium Miracle, p. 142)
The ‘etiology’ or cause of eclampsia is still unknown, after centuries of research and varying plausible and frankly, incredible theories…including one (quickly refuted) theory that eclampsia is caused by worms.
In the US, Canada and Western Europe the rates of preeclampsia are 2 – 5%, far lower than in less affluent countries. Fewer of us will progress to a diagnosis of eclampsia, and far fewer cases lead to infant or maternal mortality.
Treating Eclampsia with Magnesium
Today, magnesium is the treatment of choice.
“Although a mainstay of current treatment, it was not until 1906 that Horn first used magnesium sulfate to manage preeclampsia-eclampsia (Chesley, 1984). During the 1920’s, the parenteral use of magnesium sulfate in the treatment of preeclampsia-eclampsia…demonstrated that treatment with intravenous magnesium sulfate was both efficacious and safe.” (J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurse)
Since the discovery of magnesium for preeclampsia, few changes have been made in the treatment of this condition.
“Drug companies continue to run expensive clinical trials to compare their newest hypertensives and anticonvulsants to magnesium sulfate. Most studies show that magnesium is, in fact, more effective than synthetic medications, decreases both infant and maternal mortality, and is extremely safe.” (Dean, The Magnesium Miracle, p. 143)
That’s because this crucial mineral regulates the nervous system, downgrades stress hormones and relaxes muscles.
In all muscles – the blood vessels not excepted – calcium and magnesium work in tandem to contract and relax muscle cells, respectively. Insufficient magnesium can lead to the constricted blood vessels and elevated blood pressure so risky in pregnancy.
Magnesium for Eclampsia Prevention
“Many researchers suggest that pregnant mothers routinely take magnesium throughout pregnancy to prevent complications during delivery and postpartum, and to help prevent premature births.” (Dean, The Magnesium Miracle, p. 142)
To prevent hypertension, Dr Carolyn Dean recommends pregnant mothers take 300-600 milligrams of magnesium daily. (The Magnesium Miracle, p. 142)
The benefits of supplementing with magnesium as a preventative go beyond eclampsia, though. Magnesium also comes into play in treating other, more common pregnancy ailments. By working to relax muscles, magnesium prevents the discomfort of leg cramps and eases constipation often brought on by pregnancy.
Better news still, a growing body of evidence points to magnesium as a treatment for sleep disturbances. This critical mineral regulates electrical activity in the brain and facilitates synthesis of natural melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone.
Magnesium for Healthy Fetal Development
What’s good for the mother is also essential for the child.
Along with vitamins like folic acid and zinc, magnesium is at the top of the list of nutrients critical for fetal health. It is absolutely essential for the growth, development and survival of infants.
“Clinical trials have demonstrated that mothers supplementing with magnesium oxide have larger, healthier babies and lower rates of preeclampsia, premature labor, sudden infant death, and birth defects, including cerebral palsy.” (Dean, The Magnesium Miracle, p. 142)
And magnesium oxide is one of the poorer forms of magnesium; as an inorganic magnesium salt, it’s less absorbable than organic and chelated forms of magnesium.
With regard to lowering birth defects, the efficacy of magnesium may have to do with its role in DNA formation:
“Magnesium mostly works inside our tissue cells, bonding with ATP to produce energy packets for our body’s vital force…The combination of ATP and magnesium triggers production of all the body’s protein structures by revving up messenger RNA. This combination is also a requirement for the production of DNA, our genetic code. Both basic building blocks of life, RNA and DNA, are dependent on ATP/magnesium to maintain stble genes. In addition to its stabilizing effect on DNA and the structure of chromosomes, ATP/magnesium is an essential cofactor in almost all enzyme systems involved in the processing of DNA. Research shows that without sufficient magnesium, DNA synthesis becomes sluggish.” (Dean, The Magnesium Miracle, p. 14)
Getting Enough Magnesium in Pregnancy
Despite magnesium’s proven importance, most Canadians – women in particular – don’t meet the recommended daily allowance. In fact, magnesium intake has plunged by more than 50 percent over the past century.
So why are most of us falling short? For one, it’s not always easy to get enough magnesium in our diets.
If we subsisted on leafy greens, legumes and nuts – the richest sources – getting enough would be easy. But most of us aren’t eating those magnesium-rich foods often enough to meet our requirements.
Too much sugar, animal protein, dietary fat, stress and even sweat deplete what magnesium we do ingest.
For most, a daily supplement is the answer.
Choosing the Right Magnesium for Pregnancy
Absorption of any supplement is what matters. Depending on the formula and how it’s delivered, one supplement can be much more ‘bioavailable’ (or available for use in the body) than another.
Minerals like magnesium are best absorbed when taken in a dissolved format, as a liquid. The more soluble, the more absorbable.
Magnesium citrate is proven to be one of the most absorbable forms – it’s highly soluble, and research shows that it directly increases blood plasma levels of magnesium.
Research also demonstrates that magnesium citrate is more absorbable than magnesium sulphate and magnesium oxide, as previously noted. While magnesium sulphate is used intravenously in hospitals to treat eclampsia, citrate is the better supplement.
If you’re pregnant, try Natural Calm magnesium citrate to keep your magnesium levels high. It’s an easy, delicious daily habit that can make all the difference for you and your baby!