Vitamin E supplementation may help reduce the risk of pregnancy complications involving oxidative stress, such as pre-eclampsia. There is a need to evaluate the efficacy and safety of vitamin E supplementation in pregnancy.
To assess the effects of vitamin E supplementation, alone or in combination with other separate supplements, on pregnancy outcomes, adverse events, side effects and use of health services.
We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (31 March 2015) and reference lists of retrieved studies.
All randomised or quasi-randomised controlled trials evaluating vitamin E supplementation in pregnant women. We excluded interventions using a multivitamin supplement that contained vitamin E.
Two review authors independently assessed trials for inclusion and risk of bias, extracted data and checked them for accuracy.
Twenty-one trials, involving 22,129 women were eligible for this review. Four trials did not contribute data. All of the remaining 17 trials assessed vitamin E in combination with vitamin C and/or other agents. Overall the risk of bias ranged from low to unclear to high; 10 trials were judged to be at low risk of bias, six trials to be at unclear risk of bias and five trials to be at high risk of bias. No clear difference was found between women supplemented with vitamin E in combination with other supplements during pregnancy compared with placebo for the risk of stillbirth (risk ratio (RR) 1.17, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.88 to 1.56, nine studies, 19,023 participants, I² = 0%; moderate quality evidence), neonatal death (RR 0.81, 95% CI 0.58 to 1.13, nine trials, 18,617 participants, I² = 0%), pre-eclampsia (average RR 0.91, 95% CI 0.79 to 1.06; 14 trials, 20,878 participants; I² = 48%; moderate quality evidence), preterm birth (average RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.88 to 1.09, 11 trials, 20,565 participants, I² = 52%; high quality evidence) or intrauterine growth restriction (RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.91 to 1.06, 11 trials, 20,202 participants, I² = 17%; high quality evidence). Women supplemented with vitamin E in combination with other supplements compared with placebo were at decreased risk of having a placental abruption (RR 0.64, 95% CI 0.44 to 0.93, seven trials, 14,922 participants, I² = 0%; high quality evidence). Conversely, supplementation with vitamin E was associated with an increased risk of self-reported abdominal pain (RR 1.66, 95% CI 1.16 to 2.37, one trial, 1877 participants) and term prelabour rupture of membranes (PROM) (average RR 1.77, 95% CI 1.37 to 2.28, two trials, 2504 participants, I² = 0%); however, there was no corresponding increased risk for preterm PROM (average RR 1.27, 95% CI 0.93 to 1.75, five trials, 1999 participants, I² = 66%; low quality evidence). There were no clear differences between the vitamin E and placebo or control groups for any other maternal or infant outcomes. There were no clear differing patterns in subgroups of women based on the timing of commencement of supplementation or baseline risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. The GRADE quality of the evidence was high for preterm birth, intrauterine growth restriction and placental abruption, moderate for stillbirth and clinical pre-eclampsia, and low for preterm PROM.
The data do not support routine vitamin E supplementation in combination with other supplements for the prevention of stillbirth, neonatal death, preterm birth, pre-eclampsia, preterm or term PROM or poor fetal growth. Further research is required to elucidate the possible role of vitamin E in the prevention of placental abruption. There was no convincing evidence that vitamin E supplementation in combination with other supplements results in other important benefits or harms.