A low dose of aspirin can help reduce the risk of developing preeclampsia in pregnant women, a new study has found.
Preeclampsia is a potentially life-threatening condition characterised by high blood pressure and signs of damage to other body organs such as the liver and kidneys.
It begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy among women with previously normal blood pressure. The condition affects about five per cent of women globally.
According to the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, women who were at high risk of developing preeclampsia were given an aspirin dose of 150mg per day from 11 to 14 weeks of gestation until 36 weeks. It resulted in a significantly lower incidence of preeclampsia compared with the women on placebos. The aspirin also reduced the risk of giving birth to premature babies.
Lead researcher Dr Daniel Rolnik of King’s College Hospital in London said there was a 62 per cent reduced risk of pre-term birth.
In pregnancy, high blood pressure affects the mother’s kidney and could interfere with the placenta’s ability to deliver oxygen to the unborn child.
“Preeclampsia can impair kidney and liver functions and cause blood clotting; the woman may have swellings in the feet, legs and hands,” said consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician Dr Aggrey Akula.
According to the World Health Organisation, giving of antiplatelets including aspirin to pregnant women can prevent preeclampsia and its complications.
Dr Akula advises woman who develop symptoms of preeclampsia including severe stomach pains, swelling of feet and hands, headaches and bleeding to see a doctor immediately. When tested, the urine of a woman with preeclampsia presents high levels of protein.
Screening helps to reduce the maternal morbidity and mortality associated with this condition.
In Uganda, data from Mulago Hospital labour ward shows that about three to four women with preeclampsia are admitted daily. This constitutes 8.2 per cent of the admissions.
Severe preeclampsia contributes to 21 per cent of maternal mortality.
Dr Akula said that there is no treatment for the disorder but women who present symptoms are advised to rest, lying on their left side so at to take the weight of the baby off the mother’s major blood vessels.
“Women should also increase prenatal checkups, consume less salt and drink at least eight glasses of water a day,” he advised.