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Vitamin D Status May Predict Preeclampsia Risk in Expectant Mothers

Update Date: Jan 28, 2014 12:15 PM EST

Levels of vitamin D during pregnancy could predict a woman's risk of preeclampsia, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed blood samples of women who gave blood samples at 26 weeks of pregnancy or less. The women were part of the Collaborative Perinatal Project that lasted between 1959 and 1965. Researchers said that 700 women had developed preeclampsia and 3,000 who did not develop the blood pressure disorder.

The findings revealed that women with sufficient levels of vitamin D were 40 percent less likely to develop severe preeclampsia. The findings held true even after researchers accounted for factors like body mass index, number of previous pregnancies, smoking, diet, ethnicity, physical activity and sunlight exposure.

However, researcher found no links between vitamin D and mild preeclampsia.

"Scientists believe that severe preeclampsia and mild preeclampsia have different root causes," senior author Dr. Mark A. Klebanoff, Center for Perinatal Research at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital and the Department of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, said in a news release. "Severe preeclampsia poses much higher health risks to the mother and child, so linking it with a factor that we can easily treat, like vitamin D deficiency, holds great potential."

While the data used in the study has been stored for decades, researchers believe that the results apply to modern women.

"If our results hold true in a modern sample of pregnant women, then further exploring the role of vitamin D in reducing the risk of preeclampsia would be warranted," lead author Dr. Lisa Bodnar, associate professor in Pitt Public Health's Department of Epidemiology, said in a news release. "Until then, women shouldn't automatically take vitamin D supplements during pregnancy as a result of these findings."

The findings are published in the journal Epidemiology.

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