Pre-eclampsia, a condition affecting roughly 5-8% of pregnancies, is characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine. Onset of the condition is typically sometime after 20-weeks and symptoms include visual disturbances, swelling and rapid weight gain, and headaches. Pre-eclampsia is a leading cause of infant and maternal illness and mortality around the world and the only cure is delivery of the fetus. In an effort to reduce the risk of stroke and other maternal complications, many babies are delivered prematurely.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force’s draft recommendation comes after increasing evidence showing that low dose aspirin may be beneficial to mothers who are considered high risk for pre-eclampsia. In clinical trials, low dose aspirin reduced the incidence of pre-eclampsia by 24%, preterm birth by 14%, and fetal growth restriction by 20%.
“The task force recommended that women at high risk for pre-eclampsia take 81 milligrams of low-dose aspirin daily after 12 weeks of gestation. High-risk women include 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.
But the task force also advised that expectant women with multiple moderate-risk factors “may also benefit from low-dose aspirin.” These risks include obesity, a family history of pre-eclampsia, women older than 35, and African-American women.” (source)
There appears to be no short-term harm to the fetus or the pregnancy by taking low dose aspirin, but rare or long-term risks could not be ruled out.
“The largest trial followed infants 18 months after birth, and “found no differences in development outcomes,” said Jillian T. Henderson, the lead author of the review and an investigator at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore.
The researchers also found that use of low-dose aspirin doesn’t increase the risk of excessive bleeding after delivery, placental abruption (when the placenta detaches from the uterus before it should) or bleeding inside the baby’s cranial vault.”
Discussing the pros and cons of taking low dose aspirin should be discussed with a care provider.