Aspirin may prevent preeclampsia

Pregnant women at a high risk for preeclampsia may be able to prevent the condition if they take low-dose aspirin after their first trimester, according to a report led by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).

"Low-dose aspirin - in looking at benefit - reduced the risk of preeclampsia by 24 percent," Jillian Henderson, the review's lead author, told Reuters Health.

Preeclampsia occurs in 2 to 8 percent of pregnancies, and is a condition defined by the onset of high blood pressure and high urine protein levels during pregnancy, according to the USPSTF.

It is one of the common causes for maternal death worldwide and leads to premature births in 15 percent of cases. About 4 percent of U.S. deliveries in 2010 were affected by preeclampsia, the authors note.

Scientists reviewed past studies to assess aspirin's benefit, and not only found that it reduced the risk of preeclampsia by 24 percent, but that it reduced the risk of preterm birth by 14 percent and the risk that the baby would grow too slowly in the womb by 20 percent.

"This certainly expands the therapy to a lot more women and will certainly expand our offering to more women," said Dr. Loralei Thornburg, a pregnancy expert at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.

There is no way of knowing if an expectant mother will develop preeclampsia, but researchers note that they can recommend the drug to women with preexisting risk factors.

Women with only one risk factor or multiple should take low-dose (81 milligram) aspirin every day after 12 weeks of pregnancy, the panel advises. Currently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists only suggests aspirin therapy to women with a history of preeclampsia.

"It shouldn't be something done with a broad brush that people are considering for themselves," Henderson said.

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