Beetroot juice can reduce blood pressure in pregnancy: can we predict which women will respond?

By looking at the bacteria present in women’s mouths, our researchers want to find out why drinking beetroot juice reduces blood pressure in some pregnant women with hypertension, while others do not respond to this treatment.

Start: September 2018

End: September 2022

Around 1 in 10 pregnant women have chronic hypertension – high blood pressure before or early in pregnancy – and this can be linked to poor outcomes for both mother and baby. These women are more likely to suffer from pre-eclampsia, and their babies may be born too small  or too soon because there isn’t enough blood flowing across the placenta for the baby to get the food and oxygen it needs. There are very few treatments available for pregnant women with high blood pressure, and we believe this needs to change.

Beetroot juice can reduce blood pressure in some

We have recently shown that drinking beetroot juice can reduce blood pressure in pregnant women with hypertension (high blood pressure). This works because beetroot juice is a source of nitrate, which our bodies convert into nitric oxide – a small molecule that makes our blood vessels get wider and allows blood to flow more easily.

However, we found that some women were not able to make use of the nitrate in beetroot juice, meaning that they did not benefit from this treatment.

We know that people who are not pregnant only have blood pressure reductions in response to dietary nitrate if they have a healthy mixture of bacteria in their mouths. We now want to find out if this is also the case for pregnant women with high blood pressure, so that we can work out which women will respond to beetroot juice and which won’t.

To do this, we will investigate whether there are any differences between the bacteria present in the mouths of normal pregnant women and those with hypertension.

We will also find out whether women with different mixtures of bacteria in their mouths have different responses to beetroot juice. We hope that our research will show us why some women benefit from drinking beetroot juice while others don’t, so that we can improve the effectiveness of this treatment and better manage hypertension in pregnancy.

 

The terrible effect of stillbirth

Stillbirth is devastating for families. We have been gathering testimony about the terrible effect of stillbirth on parents and wider family to raise awareness and make the case that more must be done to bring down the statistics.

'We sat on the bed laughing and joking, pushing the worry away. The midwife seemed to be away for ages. When she returned we were taken to a scan room to be scanned. As we walked in the room I knew something wasn’t right as there were three people in the room already. I nervously lay on the bed and after a few minutes the doctor turned to me and said, ‘I’m sorry but there’s no heartbeat.’

'Those words still make me feel sick to my stomach. I just remember screaming and screaming. I looked to David who sat with his head in his hands. I eventually managed to stop screaming and sat and cried uncontrollably. How could this have happened?'

Shelley, whose baby Joseph was stillborn at 37 weeks

Join the fight against baby loss

Tommy's funds research across the UK investigating the reasons for miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth. We can keep you updated on ways you can support our work. If you would like to join our fight against baby loss and premature birth, click here.

More about Tommy's research

  • Three pregnant women sitting in a row

    Research into health and wellbeing in pregnancy

    In addition to our core work on miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm birth and pre-eclampsia, Tommy’s also funds projects that research the effects of lifestyle and well-being on pregnancy and on the later life of the child.

  • Team of researchers

    Research into stillbirth

    When a baby dies after 24 weeks of gestation, it is called a stillbirth. Around 2.6 million babies are stillborn each year. Tommy’s research is helping to change this.

  • Nurse monitoring premature baby in hospital

    Research into premature birth

    Around 60,000 babies are born prematurely each year in the UK. These babies are vulnerable – they are born before they have grown to cope with the outside world. Tommy’s is saving lives by researching how we can prevent premature births by finding those at risk early on.

  • Clinical researcher looking at test tube

    Research into miscarriage

    1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage.1 in 100 women have 3 or more miscarriages in a row. Research into this area of pregnancy loss has been underfunded for years.

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    Just us two and I miss you

    The midwife said: 'Maybe he is turned in a funny position', but we waited and still she couldn’t find the heartbeat.

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    When it comes down to it, I would never have got anywhere near completing my challenge had it not been for Tommy's, the amazing cause and those they have touched.

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    Over a 6-year period I have lost 5 babies

    Looking back now I realise that my experiences have taught me some valuable lessons. That strength does not have to mean silence; being brave can involve tears and that these babies are chapters of my story.

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