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Magnesium: a pregnancy problem.

Magnesium: A pregnancy problem?

Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy syndrome that can lead to convulsions in the mother and low birthweight in the child. It occurs in 5 percent of all pregnancies in the United States, and its cause is unknown. Though injections of magnesium sulfate are given to severely pre-eclamptic women to prevent convulsions, Kenneth Weaver of East Tennessee State University in Johnson City says not enough attention has been paid to magnesium deficiency as a cause of the syndrome. "You can prevent [pre-eclampsia] by using [small] doses ahead of time," he says.

In a series of experiments, Weaver fed magnesium-deficient diets to pregnant sheep. The ewes developed hypertension and the growth of their fetuses was retarded--both symptoms of pre-eclampsia. They also had a higher rate of stillbirths.

According to Weaver, the sheep model indicates that adequate magnesium is essential to the vascular systems of fetus and mother during pregnancy and is crucial in the placenta's ability to nourish the fetus. Laboratory studies have shown that blood vessels contract under low-magnesium conditions, and that those conditions also favor increased clotting; Weaver speculates that the magnesium deficiency increases levels of a vessel-constricting substance, thromboxane A, and decreases levels of a vessel dilator.

Most pregnant women in the Western world don't get enough magnesium in their diets, Weaver says. Because the syndrome is more damaging to the fetus than to the mother, he speculates that pre-eclampsia may actually be a protective mechanism for the magnesium-deficient mother.
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Title Annotation:magnesium deficiency as cause of pre-eclampsia
Publication:Science News
Date:Jun 14, 1986
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