Should magnesium sulfate be administered to women with mild pre-eclampsia? A systematic review of published reports on eclampsia

J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2015 Jun;41(6):831-42. doi: 10.1111/jog.12697. Epub 2015 Apr 1.


Aim: Magnesium sulfate is an evidence-based anticonvulsant drug used to prevent and control eclampsia. Controversy persists on routine administration of magnesium sulfate in cases of pre-eclampsia without severe features. Our objective was to assess the pattern of blood pressure and maternal symptoms preceding eclamptic seizure based on the current published work.

Material and methods: A comprehensive computer-based publication search was conducted in the African Journals Online, Google scholar, HINARI, PubMed, and MEDLINE databases and the Cochrane library to identify descriptive study reports for blood pressure, severity symptoms or stage of pregnancy during convulsion in women with eclampsia.

Results: A total of 59 publications were eligible for this review. Overall, 21,149 eclamptic women from 26 countries were included for the interest of one or more of the selected variables. Out of 18,488 eclamptic women, the proportion of antepartum, intrapartum and post-partum eclampsia was 59%, 20% and 21%, respectively. Out of 3443 eclamptic women, 25% were normotensive; 20% had mild-to-moderate hypertension; 32% had severe hypertension; and 21% were hypertensive but unclassified. Out of 2163 eclamptic women, 66% and 27% had a headache and visual disturbance, respectively, preceding the occurrence of convulsion. Out of 2053 eclamptic women, 25% had epigastric area pain, and out of 1092 women with eclampsia, 25% were asymptomatic.

Conclusion: Although eclampsia is known to result from severe pre-eclampsia with or without organ function derangement, this review has revealed that a significant number of eclamptic women had either normal blood pressure or mild-to-moderate hypertension immediately before seizure. The findings are apparently in support of initiating magnesium sulfate prophylaxis to all women with mild pre-eclampsia.

Keywords: descriptive studies; eclampsia; magnesium sulfate; mild pre-eclampsia; systematic publication review.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anticonvulsants / adverse effects
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use*
  • Disease Progression
  • Eclampsia / etiology
  • Eclampsia / prevention & control*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnesium Sulfate / adverse effects
  • Magnesium Sulfate / therapeutic use*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / drug therapy*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / physiopathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Tocolytic Agents / adverse effects
  • Tocolytic Agents / therapeutic use*


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Tocolytic Agents
  • Magnesium Sulfate