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Does giving vitamin E supplementation, alone or in combination with other vitamins, given to women during pregnancy improve outcomes for their babies by reducing the incidence of pre-eclampsia and the number of babies born too early? Or does it cause harm?

Although vitamin E deficiency is rarely seen in healthy adults, for pregnant women, insufficient dietary vitamin E (found in vegetable oils, nuts, cereals and some leafy green vegetables) may lead to complications such as pre-eclampsia and the baby being born small. In addition, vitamin E deficiency can be made worse by too much iron and so it is important to investigate the optimum amounts for pregnancy.

Key findings

-There was a reduction in the number of placentas coming away early (placental abruption) in women given vitamin E supplements in combination with other agents.

-Routine supplementation with vitamin E in combination with other supplements during pregnancy did not improve outcomes for babies or women.

-There may be harms associated with vitamin E supplements in pregnancy, as there was an increased risk of abdominal pain and term prelabour rupture of foetal membranes in women supplemented with vitamin E in combination with other supplements.