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General characteristics

General characteristics

Pre-eclampsia (also known as metabolic toxaemia) is a condition that can affect pregnant women, often in the later stages of pregnancy and is characterised by a rise in blood pressure with the presence of protein in the urine. It is the precursor of the very serious condition eclampsia whereby the mother may have seizures or even enter a coma. Mild pre-eclampsia does not usually present a problem to mother or child.

The rise in pressure seems to result from chemical signals released into the mothers blood when the placenta is not anchoured or 'burrowed' deeply enough into the inner uterine walls. The mothers blood pressure rises and can become dangerously high in an attempt to push the blood flow along properly to the developing baby. The mothers arteries become constricted, reducing blood flow to the mothers organs and causing fluids to leak from blood vessels causing excess fluid in the tissues. Proteins enter the urine as the tiny blood vessels supplying the kidneys are damaged. Reduced nutrient and blood flow through the placenta can also cause developmental problems in the baby. It is unclear as to the exact causes but predisposing factors include poor diet, calcium deficiency, vitamin D deficiency, hereditary factors, first pregnancies, race (black women 12 times more likely to develop it than non-black women), first pregnancies over 40, multiple babies (twins, triplets), existing diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney disease, long term use of barrier contraceptives (eg. coil and cap) obesity, having had the condition in a previous pregnancy and long gaps (10 years or more) between pregnancies.

Pre-eclampsia is usually picked up during routine health checks during the pregnancy but symptoms of the condition include headaches, aches and pains, muscular spasms, visual disturbances (flashing lights, blurriness etc), rapid weight gain, reduced urination and -if severe- swollen face, hands or feet and lower legs, severe heartburn, shortness of breath, vomiting and abdominal pains, usually right sided. Babies may be induced as soon as the baby is viable in order to halt the condition and prevent further problems for both mother and baby.

It is good to understand that prevention is possible with good diet, even if you are in an 'at risk' category. Make sure you listen to the advise of your doctors and midwives if you develop the condition but herbs and diet can go a long way to help keep the condition under control alongside conventional care.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Eating foods rich in antioxidants (especially selenium, vitamin C and E) both before and during pregnancy will go a long way to help prevent or ease pre-eclampsia. All fruit and vegetables contain them so include a wide variety of fresh vegetable foods daily. A fresh juice made from carrot, apple and beetroot will provide plenty of relevant nutrients.

Avoid trans fats and other processed fats and oils before and during pregnancy. Instead go for omega-3 rich raw olive oil, seeds and nuts and oily fish such as mackerel, river trout, salmon, herrings and sardines a few times a week.

Eat foods that are rich in fibre such as raw vegetables, fruits like apples and whole grains.

Drink plenty of fluids to stay well hydrated.

Try to eat a small portion of protein every 2 hours or so. Protein deficiency is often cited as a possible cause of the condition. Eggs, chicken, dairy, beans and legumes are all good sources but avoid too much red meat.

Good calcium intake is crucial during pregnancy so include foods such as raw carrots, tahini spread and sesame seeds, green leaves like spinach and full fat organic dairy produce.

Grape skins contain a compound that is thought to help reduce blood pressure. Try and eat organic grapes if possible.

Magnesium rich foods can help to prevent seizures so eat plenty of food sources such as watercress and other dark green leaves.

A good balance of sodium and potassium are all useful in both preventing and helping ease fluid retention and in helping to maintain normal blood pressure. As dietary sodium is usually plentiful focus on potassium rich foods such as bananas, potato peel (soak organic potato peel in water for 15 minutes and drink the potassium rich fluid),

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

Dandelion leaf is very high in potassium and relieves water retention by encouraging the kidneys to excrete more fluid. It also helps the liver functions.Take a teaspoon in tea form twice daily.

Willow bark tincture can be used in the place of aspirin to thin the blood and enhance blood flow to the baby. Take up to 0.5 ml up to 3 times daily.

Hawthorn berries and/or flowers can help support the heart and circulation and help to reduce blood pressure. Take a teaspoon of each as a tea daily. The berries will need to be crushed or simmered in water for 15 minutes to release their nutrients more fully.


Take a strong cup daily (1 tablespoon of mix per cup) of raspberry leaf and nettle tea from the beginning of the third trimester. Nettle can be taken safely right the way through pregnancy for its high mineral and vitamin content. It also helps with water retention. raspberry leaf is high in calcium and iron.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Sea greens such as chorella and edible algaes may help as they are high in protein and many other nutrients.

Practice any relaxation techniques regularly.

Take regular moderate exercise such as walking or swimming.

Avoid taking supplements unless they are prescribed by a qualified health practitioner.

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