Taking vitamins C and E early in pregnancy appears to more than halve pre-eclampsia rates in high-risk women, according to a pilot study carried out by the baby charity Tommy's in the UK.
The findings have led to funding of £1.3 million from the Wellcome Trust to investigate the results in a large-scale trial, to take place at 22 hospitals across the country.
If left untreated, pre-eclampsia, which causes a pregnant woman's blood pressure to rise to dangerously high levels, can be fatal for both mother and the unborn baby. The condition affects up to 25,000 women in the UK each year and claims the lives of up to 40 000 mothers throughout the world.
It is thought that pre-eclampsia may be caused by production of free radicals by the placenta. Pre-eclampsia is known to lead to a deficiency in certain vitamins and this led the researchers to test the vitamins C and E, both potent antioxidants, to treat the condition. The team from Tommy's will recruit 2400 mothers who are at least 14-weeks pregnant and known to be suffering from high blood pressure, kidney problems, clotting disorders or diabetes.