Taking low doses of aspirin in early pregnancy and calcium supplements in the latter stages can help prevent the onset of pre-eclampsia in mothers at risk of the condition, research has found.

Women in "low-intake populations" can reduce the chances of pre-eclampsia developing by taking low doses of aspirin before 16 weeks, and also calcium supplements after 20 weeks, the report published in The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist found.

It is also possible to assess a woman's risk of developing pre-eclampsia from as early as 11 weeks of pregnancy, say the authors.

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Pre-eclampsia affects around 3 per cent to 5 per cent of pregnancies and accounts for more than 50,000 maternal deaths worldwide every year.

It is characterised by a combination of raised blood pressure and protein in the urine, and can lead to complications including stroke and eclampsia - life-threatening seizures - as well as multiple-organ failure, foetal growth restriction, intrauterine death and pre-term labour.

The research examined pre-eclampsia in the first and second trimester and prevention using low-dose aspirin and calcium supplementation.

Taking low levels of aspirin before 16 weeks was found to have a significant effect in the prevention of pre-eclampsia, as was taking calcium supplements in women who are calcium-deficient.