An Innovative Program in Nepal to Prevent Pre-Eclampsia


By Dipendra Rai and Yeshoda Aryal

While attending her prenatal care visits, Sunita learned about a new program offered by the Government of Nepal that gives pregnant women calcium supplements for free. The 25-year-old mother of three knew the value of calcium: it reduces the risk of a potentially fatal pregnancy-related condition. But, at $10, it was too costly.

Through the new calcium supplementation program, Sunita can now get the calcium that will help reduce her risk of pre-eclampsia, which if left untreated can lead to eclampsia—the leading cause of maternal death in Nepal. Sunita visited the local health clinic in her home district of Dailekh. There, she was examined for symptoms of pre-eclampsia, including high blood pressure and elevated levels of protein in urine, and counseled on calcium use. Before leaving, she received two bottles of calcium and an informational brochure.

Sunita is one of nearly 5,000 pregnant women in Dailekh who have participated in the calcium supplementation program. This intervention is being implemented by the Family Health Division of the Nepal Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP), which is led by Jhpiego.

Calcium is an important part of prenatal care in developing countries such as Nepal, as it is proven to reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia by 50 percent. If undiagnosed, women with pre-eclampsia/eclampsia can have seizures and other medical conditions that put themselves and their babies at a high risk of death.