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Daily Dose of Aspirin could Reduce Women’s Risk of Preeclampsia

Update Date: Apr 08, 2014 11:42 AM EDT

A panel of experts in the United States has drafted a new recommendation for women who have a high risk of pregnancy complications. The recommendation states that women at risk of preeclampsia, which occurs when blood pressure and excess protein spike after week 20, should take one daily low-dose aspirin pill starting after week 12 of gestation.

"Preeclampsia is one of the more common causes of serious health problems for both the expectant mother and their baby," said Dr. Michael LeFevre, chairman of the task force, and vice chair of family and community medicine at the University of Missouri School of Medicine. "At least for pregnant women at high risk for preeclampsia, a low dose of aspirin taken daily can help prevent the condition and improve the outcome for both mother and child."

According to the experts with the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, one low-dose of aspirin, which is equivalent to 81 milligrams, can also reduce the risk of premature birth or low birth weight often caused by preeclampsia. The experts found that taking daily low-dose aspirin could reduce preterm birth risk by 14 percent. Aspirin also reduced the risk of slow fetal growth by 20 percent. Overall, it lowered the incidence rate of preeclampsia by 24 percent.

"For every four women who would have gotten preeclampsia, one case is prevented," said Dr. Ira M. Bernstein, the chair of department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Vermont reported by the New York Times. "The ability to prevent a quarter of disease is substantial."

Women who are at risk of developing this condition include women who have had preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy, women with hypertension or diabetes before getting pregnant and women who are carrying more than one fetus. Aside from these risk factors, LeFevre stated that women with two or more moderate risk factors might also be recommended to start an aspirin regimen. These risk factors include obesity, being older than 35, being African-American, having a first baby, and having a family history of preeclampsia.

"We certainly don't want women to go out and start taking low-dose aspirin without talking with their prenatal provider about whether they are at high enough risk to begin taking aspirin," LeFevre said according to Philly. "This is not something women should do on their own. This is something they should do in consultation with their health care provider."

Preeclampsia has been tied to causing one-third of all serious health complications that occur in pregnant women. In mothers, the condition can lead to organ damage or stroke. For the fetuses, it can lead to low birth weight due to slow fetal development, preterm birth, or stillbirth. The only treatment available for preeclampsia is delivery, which is why it is important to prevent it from developing.

The new research was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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