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This article is part of the supplement: Technical inputs, enhancements and applications of the Lives Saved Tool (LiST)

Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Review

Role of calcium supplementation during pregnancy in reducing risk of developing gestational hypertensive disorders: a meta-analysis of studies from developing countries

Aamer Imdad, Afshan Jabeen and Zulfiqar A Bhutta*

Author Affiliations

Division of Women & Child Health, The Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11(Suppl 3):S18  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-S3-S18

Published: 13 April 2011



Hypertension in pregnancy stand alone or with proteinuria is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality and morbidity in the world. Epidemiological and clinical studies have shown that an inverse relationship exists between calcium intake and development of hypertension in pregnancy though the effect varies based on baseline calcium intake and pre-existing risk factors. The purpose of this review was to evaluate preventive effect of calcium supplementation during pregnancy on gestational hypertensive disorders and related maternal and neonatal mortality in developing countries.


A literature search was carried out on PubMed, Cochrane Library and WHO regional databases. Data were extracted into a standardized excel sheet. Identified studies were graded based on strengths and limitations of studies. All the included studies were from developing countries. Meta-analyses were generated where data were available from more than one study for an outcome. Primary outcomes were maternal mortality, eclampsia, pre-eclampsia, and severe preeclampsia. Neonatal outcomes like neonatal mortality, preterm birth, small for gestational age and low birth weight were also evaluated. We followed standardized guidelines of Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group (CHERG) to generate estimates of effectiveness of calcium supplementation during pregnancy in reducing maternal and neonatal mortality in developing countries, for inclusion in the Lives Saved Tool (LiST).


Data from 10 randomized controlled trials were included in this review. Pooled analysis showed that calcium supplementation during pregnancy was associated with a significant reduction of 45% in risk of gestational hypertension [Relative risk (RR) 0.55; 95 % confidence interval (CI) 0.36-0.85] and 59% in the risk of pre-eclampsia [RR 0.41; 95 % CI 0.24-0.69] in developing countries. Calcium supplementation during pregnancy was also associated with a significant reduction in neonatal mortality [RR 0.70; 95 % CI 0.56-0.88] and risk of pre-term birth [RR 0.88, 95 % CI 0.78-0.99]. Recommendations for LiST for reduction in maternal mortality were based on risk reduction in gestational hypertensive related severe morbidity/mortality [RR 0.80; 95% CI 0.70-0.91] and that for neonatal mortality were based on risk reduction in all-cause neonatal mortality [RR 0.70; 95% CI 0.56-0.88].


Calcium supplementation during pregnancy is associated with a reduction in risk of gestational hypertension, pre-eclampsia neonatal mortality and pre-term birth in developing countries.