If you have a family history of preeclampsia or if you have a condition like diabetes, chronic high blood pressure, kidney disease or polycystic ovarian syndrome, which puts you at a higher risk for preeclampsia, there’s good news: Taking a simple, over-the-counter drug could help keep you and your baby safe. A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that taking baby aspirin before bed can drastically reduce your chance of getting the dangerous condition, which often leads to preterm birth.
Preeclampsia is a condition in which a woman experiences high blood pressure during pregnancy. It can lead to damage to the kidneys and liver, and restrict blood flow to the baby, preventing normal growth. In severe cases, preeclampsia can even cause seizures and death. The only cure is delivering the baby, which means preterm labour is common among women who have it, but, depending on when a woman develops the condition, doctors may try to keep the baby in utero as long as possible.
In the new study, researcher from King’s College London and the University of Exeter identified 1,776 high-risk women from the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Greece and Israel. Some of them were given 150 mg of aspirin starting at 11 to 14 weeks of pregnancy up until 36 weeks; the rest were given a placebo.
The group of women who took the aspirin saw 82 percent fewer cases of early preeclampsia (which results in delivering the baby before 34 weeks), and a 62 percent reduction in preterm preeclampsia (which results in delivery before 37 weeks).
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists currently recommends that some women who have had preeclampsia in previous pregnancies be given aspirin during subsequent pregnancies, but the researchers behind this study hope that their results will change clinical practices so more women who are at high risk are given aspirin as a preventive measure.
If aspirin is more widely adopted, countless moms and babies around the globe could benefit, because preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders are the leading causes of maternal and infant illnesses and deaths internationally.
So, if you’re at risk, talk to your doctor about whether aspirin could help you. Generally, aspirin isn't recommended during pregnancy, but your doctor can help evaluate the risks, benefits and monitor you appropriately if necessary.
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