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Aspirin "Reduces Risk of Pre-Eclampsia in Pregnancy"

Aug 24, 2007
A major study has suggested that taking aspirin during pregnancy could reduce the risk of the potentially dangerous condition pre-eclampsia. The study by the University of Sydney analysed University of Sydney suggested cases of pre-eclampsia, which is caused by a defect in the placenta, could fall by 10% if aspirin was taken widely.

However, experts have urged caution as there are a number of small-risks linked to long-term aspirin usage.

Pre-eclampsia affects approximately 7% of pregnancies and can trigger high blood pressure and kidney problems. If uncontrolled it can increase the chances of both mother and baby dying. Up to 35% of premature births in the UK are connected to the condition, although the precise reason it develops is still unknown.

Pre-eclampsia is known to cause excessive blood clotting in the placenta, which supplies nutrients and oxygen to the foetus, and various experts have suggested that aspirin, which inhibits clotting, could counter this. Recent research has found that taking "low-dose aspirin" during pregnancy reduced the risk not only of pre-eclampsia, but also premature birth, and of "poor pregnancy outcome" in general.

However, concerns about using aspirin during pregnancy have been raised as there is an increased chance of bleeding, which is potentially a serious issue within pregnancy and birth. Despite this, the study found no evidence that taking aspirin long term might be linked to bleeding problems at any stage, although the researchers said that their evidence was not strong enough to rule this out entirely.

In conclusion they said the potential benefits of taking the drug might outweigh the risks, particularly in women at higher risk of pre-eclampsia, such as overweight or older mothers, or those with a previous or family history of the condition. They wrote: "From a public-health perspective, especially for populations with a high risk of pre-eclampsia, even these moderate benefits could make more widespread use of anti-platelet agents (aspirin) worthwhile."

Mike Rich, chief executive of charity Action on Pre-Eclampsia, said the study would help spread the message about the potential benefits of aspirin to a wider audience of doctors, but that "under no circumstances should pregnant women self-medicate with aspirin. While this study suggests that aspirin can have benefits to women at high risk, the decision to use aspirin should only be made in consultation with your doctor."

A spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists added: "It is a moderate reduction of around 10% but given that pre-eclampsia is potentially serious for some women and their babies, this is an important finding. No single sub-group of women seems to benefit particularly from low-dose aspirin. The decision on whether to take it in pregnancy should be made following discussion between the woman and her obstetrician, taking into account her individual risk of developing the condition."
About the Author
Guide to Pregnancy explores the issue of pregnancy from the very beginning until the baby is born. It explores issues concerning pregnant mothers and offers guidance and advice on a number of related topics. For more information please visit http://www.guide-to-pregnancy.com
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