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Watching a pregnant woman in convulsions is one of most frightening sights. Yet, it happens in one in 1,000 pregnancies in India and is a well-known complication of pregnancy known as eclampsia or toxemia of pregnancy. The early warning signs of eclampsia are elevated blood pressure, protein in the urine and swelling of the arms and feet — a state called pre-eclampsia.
And this occurs in nearly one in 25 pregnant women. One of the major reasons to make regular visits to the doctor during pregnancy is to have the blood pressure and urine checked, especially in the third trimester, to make sure these complications do not occur.
Scientists are unclear as to the causes of pre-eclampsia or eclampsia but they suspect that placental chemicals cause constriction of the small arteries of the mother’s body. The constriction of vessels causes blood pressure elevation, fits, and damage to the kidneys. Nearly 5% of mothers who develop eclampsia die from the complications.
The treatment for eclampsia are magnesium sulfate and valium, but the treatment for pre-eclampsia are few: bed-rest and in severe cases, an early delivery of the baby. For years, scientists have been searching for ways to prevent pre-eclampsia; however, to date there have been no good therapies.
A recent study from Yale University conducted by Elizabeth Triche and published in the journal Epidemiology found a simple and rather pleasant way to decrease the risk of pre-eclampsia in pregnant women. Triche studied nearly 2,000 pregnant women and recorded their chocolate intake during the first and third trimester of pregnancy and their blood chocolate levels at pregnancy (chemical in chocolate called theobromine).
Her findings were remarkable. In the first trimester, the women who had greater than five servings of chocolate per week had a 19% lower incidence of pre-eclampsia than the women who had less than one serving of chocolate. For the third trimester, the mothers who ate more chocolate had a 40% lower incidence of pre-eclampsia. Also, mothers who had high levels of theobromine, the chocolate ingredient, had a 70% lower incidence of pre-eclampsia.
Though the sample size of this study was not sufficient to make some of these findings statistically significant, and one study is not enough to prove a cause-effect relationship, the trends were impressive.
Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is known to have over 600 beneficial compounds especially related to cardiovascular health. Given that few preventive measures exist for pre-eclampsia — it’s nice to know that one chocolate bar per day can make a huge difference for the mother and the baby. All medicine isn’t bitter!
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Sources: The Times Of India