Pregnancy is a most beautiful thing. After all, it quite literally provides the gift of life. Unfortunately, however, pregnancy can come with complications — even fatal ones. One of those complications is preeclampsia (PE), which is the leading cause of childbirth-related deaths in developed nations.
Preeclampsia is a condition in which a woman experiences abnormal development of the placenta, high blood pressure (hypertension) and high levels of protein in the urine (proteinuria) around the last trimester or after the 20-week mark of her pregnancy.
Along with raising a pregnant woman’s blood pressure, before delivery it can cause damage to vital organs, including the liver, brain, kidneys and placenta, and serious malformations in the unborn baby.
While there’s no way to fully prevent this disorder from developing or cure once it has been diagnosed, there are several things that can be done by a woman to lower the risk.
Research shows that natural remedies like wild yam extract can increase the chance of having a healthy pregnancy and delivery free from preeclampsia.
Wild yam has been used for menstrual cramps and discomfort, rheumatoid arthritis, stomach cramps and pain from gallstones. It is locally known in Hausa as Magurasa.
Researchers at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, in a new study found that wild yam extract can ameliorate preeclampsia. Its extract in animal models improved hypertension by reduced the systolic blood pressure as well as the protein excretion significantly.
This study, which investigated the ability of the extract of wild yam to ameliorate symptoms associated with preeclampsia was documented by the Tropical Journal of Natural Product Research.
For the study, the researchers administered wild yam extracts to pregnant animals that were housed two per cage with access to water and adequate feed.
On day 14 of pregnancy, the animals were randomised into three groups of five animals each. Gestation was terminated on day 20 with a caesarean session. On day 19, urine was collected from each animal to determine their protein (albumin and creatinine) concentrations. Also, their blood pressures were taken on day 20.
In addition, on day 20, each animal was sacrificed. Blood samples were taken for tests. The number of developing fetuses and their respective placenta were counted, removed and weighed. The heart, kidney and liver alongside the placenta were also removed for further tests.
There was a significant increase in systolic blood pressure when the normal control was compared with the preeclamptic control. Also, the albumin-creatinine ratio in the normal group and the treated group were lower than that of the preeclamptic group though not significantly.
No remarkable changes were observed in the heart, liver and kidney in all the groups. High blood pressure due to preeclampsia, prior to delivery it can cause damage to vital organs, including the liver, brain, kidneys and placenta, and serious malformations in the unborn baby.
However, the extract had no beneficial effect on reducing intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) since it showed no significantly higher pup weight when compared to the preeclamptic control.
The researchers suggested that the ability of this extract to improve the symptoms of preeclampsia may therefore among other factors, be related to its antiplatelet aggregatory property.
According to them, wild yam contains chemical compounds that may serve as a source of new drug entities for development in the management of preeclampsia.
Previous, the same researchers had suggested in the 2018 Nigerian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Research that wild yam may serve as prophylaxis in women at high risk of preeclampsia because it possesses a significant dose-dependent antiplatelet aggregatory property.
Over the past 20 years, low dose aspirin and calcium supplements have had partial success in preventing pre-eclampsia. Evidence from randomised controlled trials shows that calcium supplements help to prevent pre-eclampsia and preterm birth.
It lowers the risk of a woman dying or having serious problems related to high blood pressure in pregnancy. This is particularly for women on low calcium diets.
Also, it is recommended that women who plan on conceiving, or who have conceived, eat foods in magnesium (tofu, soybeans, almonds, Swiss chard, brown rice, banana, and avocado to name a few) for healthy blood pressure.
Courtesy: Tropical Journal of Natural Product Research (2018).