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The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine recommend a small amount of daily aspirin for pregnant women deemed at risk for preeclampsia. Unfortunately, many patients don't know about preeclampsia, are wary of taking low-dose aspirin during pregnancy, or – until recently – received incorrect advice from pharmacists on the subject, leaders at Boston Medical Center's Prenatal Aspirin Project told NPR.
What is preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is a dangerous pregnancy complication that causes high blood pressure, kidney damage, and other health problems. About 1 in 20 women develops preeclampsia during pregnancy, typically in the third trimester. Without treatment it can lead to life-threatening consequences for you and your baby.
Who gets preeclampsia?
You're at risk for preeclampsia and a potential candidate for low-dose aspirin if you:
- Are pregnant with twins or triplets
- Have diabetes or hypertension
- Have renal or an autoimmune disease
- Had preeclampsia during a past pregnancy
- Have two or more of these risk factors:
- You're pregnant for the first time or haven't been pregnant in more than 10 years
- You're age 35 or older
- You're overweight
- You have a family history of preeclampsia
- You're African American
- You're low-income
- You've suffered pregnancy complications or had a low-birthweight baby in the past
How aspirin can help
Low-dose aspirin helps prevent preeclampsia by relaxing the blood vessels, lowering blood pressure, and improving blood flow to your baby and the rest of your body, maternal-fetal medicine specialist Jodi Abbot at Boston Medical Center told NPR.
The daily recommended aspirin dosage for at-risk pregnant women is 81mg, about a quarter of the amount you might take in a single dose used for pain relief. For preeclampsia prevention, ACOG recommends starting the dosage during the second trimester.
Research shows this low dosage poses little risk to you or your baby. However, it's important to talk to your doctor before taking aspirin or any medication during pregnancy.
Are there other ways to avoid preeclampsia?
Yes. These include getting good prenatal care, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, eating a heart-healthy diet, not smoking, and knowing the warning signs of preeclampsia so that you can alert your healthcare provider and start treatment quickly if needed.
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