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Preventing preeclampsia naturally

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I’m pregnant with my first child and worried about preeclampsia, as my mother and sister both developed it during late pregnancy. Is there anything I can do to help prevent it? I’m not overweight and don’t have high blood pressure.

P.C., via email

Preeclampsia is one of the most common medical complications of pregnancy, affecting some 2–8 percent of pregnancies.1 It’s typically identified by the onset of high blood pressure, excess protein in the urine and edema (swelling due to water retention), usually after the twentieth week of pregnancy.2 Other symptoms include headaches, excessive weight gain, vision problems and pain below the ribs.

Preeclampsia can have serious consequences for both mother and child, but there’s plenty you can do to reduce your risk. Ideally, work with an experienced naturopathic practitioner who can advise you on a personal level, and definitely check in regularly with your midwife or obstetrician.

Here are some science-backed tips for prevention.

Check your diet                  

Below are some dietary dos and don’ts based on the published studies on nutrition and preeclampsia. In general, aim to eat a balanced, whole-food diet with minimal processed foods.

DO eat plenty of vegetables. Women who munch on lots of vegetables, as well as other plant foods, have a lower risk of preeclampsia.3 If you can, buy organic vegetables—eating these was independently associated with a reduced risk of preeclampsia in one study.4

DON’T eat added sugar. Eating foods and drinks with a high content of added sugar, such as cakes and carbonated drinks, is linked to an increased risk of preeclampsia. Eating foods high in natural sugars, such as fresh and dried fruits, on the other hand, appears to cut the risk.5

DO fill up on fiber. Women who eat the most fiber (around 21 g/day or more) vs the least (less than 12 g/day) are significantly less likely to get preeclampsia.6 Make sure to include both the soluble form (such as from oats, beans, peas, carrots, apples and citrus fruits) and insoluble fiber (such as in nuts, green beans, tomatoes, cauliflower and brown rice) in your diet. And if you need to increase your fiber intake, do so gradually to avoid side-effects like gas and bloating. 

DON’T eat trans fats. Diets rich in trans-fatty acids, found in foods like margarine, cakes, cookies and fried foods, can increase the chances of preeclampsia.7

DO eat probiotic foods. A disturbed microbiome is thought to play a role in preeclampsia,8 and one study suggests that consuming milk-based probiotics can lower the risk of the condition.9 The fermented drink kefir is a good option, and it can be made with nondairy alternatives such as coconut milk if you don’t drink cow’s or goat’s milk. 

DON’T sidestep salt. Restricting salt intake is generally not advised to prevent preeclampsia or high blood pressure in pregnancy.10 However, eating lots of salty snacks (along with processed meat and sweet drinks) has been tied to an increased risk of preeclampsia.3


Don’t be frightened to exercise during pregnancy. Studies show that regular physical activity can help to reduce the risk of preeclampsia,11 plus it can get you in shape for labor. Just make sure to check with your midwife or obstetrician about the right type of exercise for you. Walking is a great option,12 although one study of sedentary pregnant women found that a stretching program was easier to stick to than a walking program and that heart rate and blood pressure were lower among stretchers than walkers.13 Yoga is another good choice.

Try yoga

Yoga is a great way to stay active during pregnancy, and one controlled study in women with high-risk pregnancies found that the mind-body technique significantly reduced the chances of preeclampsia as well as pregnancy-induced hypertension, gestational diabetes and intrauterine growth restriction. The women practiced for one hour three times a week from their twelfth to twenty-eighth week of pregnancy.16

Another study reported that yoga can reduce maternal stress, which is a risk factor for preeclampsia.17

Try to find a prenatal yoga class near you, or join an online program.

Watch out for heavy metals

Exposure to heavy metals such as lead (found in old paint, cosmetics, food, drinking water and household dust) and cadmium (found in tobacco, food and drinking water) in pregnancy has been linked to preeclampsia.14 Even low-level lead exposure is associated with raised blood pressure during pregnancy.15

You can reduce your exposure to these heavy metals by avoiding cigarette smoke as well as paint stripping and other home renovations, choosing natural cosmetics from companies with strict ingredients policies, vacuuming regularly, installing an air purifier and getting a water filter, such as the Zero Water Filter.


Before taking new supplements, it’s best to consult with an experienced natural health practitioner, who can review any you’re already taking and advise on the best dosages and formulations for you. But here are the supplements that have proved useful for preeclampsia in scientific studies.


A review of 27 trials involving more than 18,000 women found that taking calcium supplements reduced the risk of preeclampsia by more than half. The effects were greatest in women with calcium-poor diets and in those at high risk of preeclampsia.18

Suggested dosage: 1,000–1,500 mg/day (depending on the amount of dietary calcium)


Supplementing with this amino acid appears to reduce the likelihood of preeclampsia in high-risk women. It can also cut the chances of preterm birth.19

Suggested dosage: 3–4 g/day

Coenzyme Q10

Taking this vitamin-like antioxidant from 20 weeks of pregnancy until delivery reduced the incidence of preeclampsia by nearly half in women at high risk of developing the condition.20

Suggested dosage: 200 mg/day

B vitamins

High levels of homocysteine in the blood are thought to be involved in preeclampsia, and supplementing with folic acid (vitamin B9) and vitamin B6 in pregnancy has been found to normalize levels.21 These vitamins are usually found in prenatal supplements, but not many will contain the naturally occurring and more bioavailable form of folate, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF), which has several advantages over synthetic folic acid.22 For one, it’s the better form for those unable to properly metabolize folate due to variations in the MTHFR gene—a significant proportion of the population.23

Suggested dosage: Consider a high-quality prenatal supplement containing 5-MTHF and B6, such as Thorne Basic Prenatal


These essential fatty acids were found to play a protective role against preeclampsia in a pooled analysis of 14 studies.24

Suggested dosage: Try Wiley’s Finest Peak Omega-3 Liquid, which supplies over
2,000 mg of EPA and DHA (from fish oil) per teaspoon

Let the sunshine in

Pregnant women with the lowest vitamin D levels are around four times more likely to have severe preeclampsia than pregnant women with higher D levels.25 A daily dose of sunshine is the best way to get vitamin D, but this might not be easy or adequate for many, especially during winter months, so supplements are a good idea. One study reported a 27 percent reduction in preeclampsia risk among women taking vitamin D supplements during pregnancy.26

Suggested dosage: Home testing kits for vitamin D are available via the Vitamin D Society ( and Better You (, along with personalized recommendations on your ideal level and what supplement dosage to take to achieve it




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