Pre-eclampsia is a serious hypertensive condition of pregnancy associated with high maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality. Se intake or status has been linked to the occurrence of pre-eclampsia by our own work and that of others. We hypothesised that a small increase in the Se intake of UK pregnant women of inadequate Se status would protect against the risk of pre-eclampsia, as assessed by biomarkers of pre-eclampsia. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, pilot trial, we randomised 230 primiparous pregnant women to Se (60 μg/d, as Se-enriched yeast) or placebo treatment from 12 to 14 weeks of gestation until delivery. Whole-blood Se concentration was measured at baseline and 35 weeks, and plasma selenoprotein P (SEPP1) concentration at 35 weeks. The primary outcome measure of the present study was serum soluble vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-1 (sFlt-1), an anti-angiogenic factor linked with the risk of pre-eclampsia. Other serum/plasma components related to the risk of pre-eclampsia were also measured. Between 12 and 35 weeks, whole-blood Se concentration increased significantly in the Se-treated group but decreased significantly in the placebo group. At 35 weeks, significantly higher concentrations of whole-blood Se and plasma SEPP1 were observed in the Se-treated group than in the placebo group. In line with our hypothesis, the concentration of sFlt-1 was significantly lower at 35 weeks in the Se-treated group than in the placebo group in participants in the lowest quartile of Se status at baseline (P= 0·039). None of the secondary outcome measures was significantly affected by treatment. The present finding that Se supplementation has the potential to reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia in pregnant women of low Se status needs to be validated in an adequately powered trial.