Should you take magnesium for pregnancy?
If you’re pregnant, you’re probably already taking a pre-natal multi-vitamin, but you may also benefit from increasing your magnesium.
Magnesium has a wide range of benefits for pregnant women, fetal health, and post-partum health. Many people know that it’s helpful for sleep and stress, which can be issues when you’re pregnant.
Yet, few peope realize that magnesium helps manage one of the most serious risks of pregnancy: eclampsia.
In this post, we’ll talk about what eclampsia is, how magnesium helps, and what you should do to increase your intake.
Eclampsia: A Rare But Serious Risk In Pregnancy
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.
Pre-Eclampsia, Eclampsia, and Hypertension
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”.
Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia may include:
- Excess protein in your urine (proteinuria) or additional signs of kidney problems
- Severe headaches
- Changes in vision, including temporary loss of vision, blurred vision or light sensitivity
- Upper abdominal pain, usually under your ribs on the right side
- Nausea or vomiting
- Decreased urine output
- Decreased levels of platelets in your blood (thrombocytopenia)
- Impaired liver function
- Shortness of breath, caused by fluid in your lungs
Pre-eclampsia and eclampsia are related to high blood pressure disorders in pregnancy, including gestational hypertension.
The causes are unknown, but it is suggested that eclampsia may be caused by problems with blood flow to the uterus. (MayoClinic)
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)
In the US, Canada and Western Europe the rates of preeclampsia are 2 – 5%. Fewer of us will progress to a diagnosis of eclampsia, and far fewer cases lead to infant or maternal mortality.
Treating Eclampsia with Magnesium
Pregnant women are given magnesium intravenously in hospitals to treat eclampsia, and the WHO has suggested that the use of magnesium in pregnancy could massively reduce rates of pre-eclampsia.
Magnesium is the most widely used treatment for pre-eclampsia because it works to lower hypertension and regulate the nervous system to reduce stress hormones.
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.
Since the discovery of magnesium for preeclampsia, few changes have been made in the treatment of this condition.
“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)
“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)
Magnesium for Pregnancy Health: Feel Calmer & More Rested
The benefits of supplementing with magnesium during pregnancy go beyond preventing eclampsia. 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. If you experience restless legs syndrome (RLS) during pregnancy, magnesium can help.
This critical mineral regulates electrical activity in the brain and facilitates synthesis of natural melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone.
Most women should not take melatonin or sleep aids during pregnancy, so magnesium is a great alternative if you struggle with sleep.
Getting Enough Magnesium for Pregnancy Requirements
Even healthy pregnant women with none of the risk factors should make sure to get enough magnesium, for yourself and your fetus.
According to 2018 research on magnesium deficiency:
Mg deficiency during pregnancy can induce maternal, fetal, and pediatric consequences that might last throughout life’.
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.
Also, eating too much sugar, processed foods, and animal protein use up our magnesium stores rapidly. Meanwhile, stress and even sweat deplete what magnesium we do ingest.
If you aren’t getting what you need every day, your body will begin feeding your own reserves to the fetus, and you may experience certain clinical signs of magnesium deficiency.
“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)
For most, a daily supplement is the answer.
Safety of Magnesium in Pregnancy
We’re often asked if magnesium is safe to take during pregnancy, and occasionally, whether one type of magnesium is more safe than others.
For the overwhelming majority, a magnesium supplement is very safe during pregnancy. There are many studies that back the benefits of magnesium during pregnancy.
You don’t have to worry about the safety of one kind over the other, as long as it’s approved by Health Canada (look for an NPN number). Some forms of magnesium are more effective than others, as we’ll discuss below.
The key point is: unless you are taking magnesium, have an issue with your kidneys, or otherwise have a health concern beyond simply being pregnant, you can typically add a magnesium supplement without consulting your obstetrician or gynecologist.
If you have or suspect a health condition, it’s always best to consult your healthcare practitioner.
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!
Natural Calm magnesium citrate has been trusted by countless women for nutritional support in pregnacy. You can read reviews on the benefits our calming magnesium for pregnancy, here.