Pre-eclampsia means pre convulsions; a life threatening prenatal condition.

Eclampsia is an old medical term for convulsions and has been a known risk with pregnancy for many centuries. (G5.1) In more recent centuries the earlier warning signs of pre-eclampsia have been recognized and include high blood pressure, protein in the urine, and edema – increased swelling in the legs, arms and face. Many women may experience increased puffiness or swelling in the lower legs during later stages of pregnancy and it can be painful to walk with swollen feet. In the more severe condition fluid is also collecting in other areas of the body on the exterior of cells instead of being collected by lymphatic or blood vessels and excreted as urine as in normal health.

Why the condition occurs is not known although some risk factors are known. It is more of a risk for very young women, (G5.3); very young women who are also overweight, (G5.4); overweight women; or women over age 40; women who are pregnant with twins, triplets, or more; women of African ethnicity;  women with a history or currently have high blood pressure; and any women who already had pre-eclampsia during previous pregnancies, or who have a family history of other women in their family (such as the pregnant woman’s sisters or her mother) having had pre-eclampsia. (G5.2) Very low calcium intake may increase risk. (G5.1)

What is known is that the condition or related high blood pressure conditions during pregnancy are a significant cause of maternal deaths, 18% of all maternal deaths in the U.S., and of neonatal/infant deaths, over 10,000 each year in the U.S.. It is also more frequently associated with preterm delivery of infants which can leave the infant more at risk for many other chronic health or development complications. (G5.1)

My health is not great, but it has been worse – I prefer better than worse. On my bucket list is to continue working on collating available research regarding the simple question – Why did simply adding raw shelled pumpkin seeds help my previous prenatal clients prevent the risk of having pre-eclampsia during their later pregnancies.

Possible answers: genetic variations in the TREK 1 potassium ion channels may leave women in some families more at risk for developing preeclampsia due to their membranes being less responsive as normal to changes in acidity or stretch – swelling. (G5.5) The preventative health solution might be too eat a more alkaline promoting diet, a more vegetable based diet rather than excess meats and dairy foods.

Very young women and women of African ethnicity may be more at risk due to less space within the abdomen and pelvic cavity. Young women may be smaller framed than more fully mature women in their twenties and the pelvic shape of women of African ethnicity is slightly narrower than that of other ethnic groups (may be a better shape for running fast though.) A hypothesis suggests a preventative health strategy that includes spending a half hour or so daily or periodically during the day in a position where the head is rested on the arms on a pillow while kneeling so the abdomen is inverted slightly and is above the heart – to help fluid movement and relieve pressure in the area around the baby. (G5.6)

The position that is recommended in the hypothesis article (G5.6) can be seen in this article, see Figure 3, Knee-Chest Position: (G5.7). It would likely help women with a family history of preeclampsia too if TREK 1 variations were involved, to relieve intra-abdominal pressure, or for any prenatal woman in the third trimester. The position can also help promote the infant remaining or moving to a head down position which is safer for delivery (preventing a breech birth delivery).

Pumpkin seeds may be particularly helpful due to being a good source of many nutrients including magnesium, (G5.13), zinc, (G5.11), and phospholipids. (G.26) Cocoa/chocolate is also a good source of magnesium and phospholipids (G.26) and women who report eating chocolate several times per week prenatally has been associated with less risk for preeclampsia. (G5.8)(G5.9) Zinc levels have been found to be significantly lower in women with preeclampsia than in pregnant women not experiencing preeclampsia. (G5.12)  Pumpkin seeds may also help due to omega 3 fatty acid content (G5.11) which has also been found to help reduce risk of preeclampsia. (G5.10Pumpkin seeds  or pumpkin seed oil may help prevent preeclampsia due to increased detoxification and removal of toxins from the body as they may cause a diuretic effect. (G5.11)

Pumpkin seeds are a good source of many minerals. Just two tablespoons provides about 25% of the daily recommendation for magnesium. (G5.13) They are also a source of manganese and other trace minerals including selenium. A larger serving of 100 grams (1/3-1/2 cup) would provide 17% of the daily recommendation for selenium and almost 200% of the recommendation for manganese. (G5.14) Supplements of 100 micrograms of selenium per day  for 6-8 weeks during later pregnancy were found beneficial for preventing pregnancy induced hypertension – high blood pressure in the later part of pregnancy is an early sign of preeclampsia. (G5.15)

Balance of nutrients is important and loss of nutrients due to increased oxidative stress may be the underlying problem rather than deficiency. Selenium, magnesium, and manganese levels were found to be comparable in women who did and did not develop preeclampsia in later pregnancy however the women who did develop the condition had elevated copper levels in early pregnancy. (G5.16) Copper and zinc levels need to be in balance with each other for optimal health.

Why should we care? The risk of complications or death for mothers and infants due to pre-eclampsia is significant and is worse in undeveloped nations. The rate of maternal death has been increasing in the U.S. and now is worse than that of other developed nations. Other developed nations range from four to nine maternal deaths per 100,000 live births while in the U.S. the rate has worsened to 26.4 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. (G5.17) If 18% of those deaths are due to preeclampsia, (G5.1), then in 2015 when there were 3,978,497 births, (G5.18), approximately 189 families lost a mother due to the dangers of preeclampsia.

This is an introduction to the topic, a longer draft is available here: G5: Preeclampsia & TRP Channels, which does not contain some of the information in this post – yet.

Traveling is fun, I took pictures, but traveling the internet saves gasoline. Bucket list – before I kick the bucket I hope to continue working on ways to help women identify their individual risk factors that may be involved in preeclampsia and identify ways to reduce those risks. Like many problems a similar set of symptoms can have a variety of underlying causes, not just one cause, one set of symptoms. Health requires many things, not just one simple solution.

This may seem melodramatic however my health has been bad enough over the years and more recently to make me very appreciative of health and mental health. Dementia is a very real problem and one that is growing in number of people effected either as patients or as caregivers. I have improved my health but it required many changes in diet and lifestyle habits that  are ongoing, missing a day or two can send me back into negative health symptoms.

Magnesium is an important part of preeclampsia care that may also be needed for dementia. I will also post my initial draft on a magnesium  article I began working on after reading a textbook: Magnesium and the Central Nervous System, (free Magnesium ebook, adelaide.edu.au).  The short message that overlaps with this post is that to have adequate magnesium stores within the cells where it is needed for optimal health then it is likely also essential to have adequate protein intake and phospholipid intake. Something that I have found important that is not included in the text or other current medical articles on the topic is that for some people topical sources of magnesium such as Epsom salt/magnesium sulfate baths or footsoaks or magnesium chloride hand lotions or topical liquid solutions may be needed to bypass problems with intestinal absorption of magnesium.

  • Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

G.26: Arlen Frank, Chemistry of Plant Phosphorus Compounds, Elsevier, Jun 3, 2013, https://books.google.com/books/about/Chemistry_of_Plant_Phosphorus_Compounds.html?id=6btpFSV1T2YC (G.26)  

Robert Vink, Mihai Nechifor, editors, Magnesium in the Central Nervous System, University of Adelaide Press, 2011, adelaide.edu.au, free ebook pdf, https://www.adelaide.edu.au/press/titles/magnesium/magnesium-ebook.pdf 

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  5. Chad L. Cowles, Yi-Ying Wu, Scott D. Barnett, Michael T. Lee, Heather R. Burkin, Iain L.O. Buxton, Alternatively Spliced Human TREK-1 Variants Alter TREK-1 Channel Function and Localization. Biol Reprod. 2015 Nov; 93(5): 122. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4712007/ (G5.5)
  6. Diane J.Sawchuck, Bernd K.Wittmann, Pre-eclampsia renamed and reframed: Intra-abdominal hypertension in pregnancy, Medical Hypotheses, Vol 83, Iss 5, Nov 2014, pp 619-632 
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306987714002722  (G5.6)
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  16. Hiten D. Mistry, Carolyn A. Gill, Lesia O. Kurlak, Paul T. Seed, John E. Hesketh, Catherine Méplan, Lutz Schomburg, Lucy C. Chappell, Linda Morgan, Lucilla Poston, Association between maternal micronutrient status, oxidative stress, and common genetic variants in antioxidant enzymes at 15 weeks׳ gestation in nulliparous women who subsequently develop preeclampsia. Free Radic Biol Med. 2015 Jan; 78: 147–155. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4291148/ (G5.16)
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  18. Birth Data, National Vital Statistics System, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/births.htm (G5.18)
Pre-eclampsia means pre convulsions; a life threatening prenatal condition. by