1 Easy Thing You Can Do That Could Prevent Preeclampsia

pregnant woman in silhouetteThe United States Preventive Services Task Force, the government panel that also came out in favor of less frequent mammograms and Pap smears in recent years, is making headlines again for a new recommendation aimed at pregnant women. They say expectant moms at high risk for pre-eclampsia -- a life-threatening condition that usually occurs in the second half of pregnancy and is marked by high blood pressure, protein in the urine, liver disease, and blood-clotting abnormalities -- should take low-dose aspirin daily to reduce their chance of developing the disorder. Genetics, a history of diabetes, age, and diet increase a woman's risk. 

The Task Force isn't alone; The New York Times reports there has been a growing scientific consensus that low-dose aspirin could be beneficial to high-risk women and their babies.

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According to a systematic review published in Annals of Internal Medicine, low-dose aspirin reduced the risk of pre-eclampsia by 24 percent in clinical trials. It also reduced the risk of premature birth by 14 percent and of intrauterine growth restriction (a condition in which the fetus doesn't grow as fast as expected) by 20 percent.

In other words, for every four women who would have gotten pre-eclampsia, one case (or one quarter of disease) would be prevented. Definitely noteworthy, especially considering that the condition is a leading complication for expectant mothers and their infants, affecting roughly 4 percent of pregnancies in the U.S.

The specifics, according to the task force: Women at high risk for pre-eclampsia (defined as those who have had pre-eclampsia in a prior pregnancy, especially those who have had to deliver preterm; women carrying multiple fetuses; and women who had diabetes or high blood pressure at conception) should take 81 milligrams of low-dose aspirin daily after 12 weeks of gestation. At the same time, they note that pregnant women with multiple moderate-risk factors "may also benefit" from aspirin. Those risks include obesity, a family history of pre-eclampsia, women older than 35, and African-American women.

Still, as Dr. Michael L. LeFevre, the chair of the task force and a professor of family medicine at the University of Missouri in Columbia, notes:

It’s a judgment call between physicians and patients as to whether a combination of moderate-risk factors is enough to justify taking low-dose aspirin.

That said, expectant moms should speak with their doctors about what's right for them and if they would benefit from this proposed preemptive treatment.

Would you ever try taking low-dose aspirin to prevent pre-eclampsia?


Image via John Hope/Flickr

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