Keep Preeclampsia Away: A Baby Aspirin a Day


PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— Preeclampsia is a condition where women develop high blood pressure, have swelling in the legs and protein in the urine. It develops in one in 25 pregnant women in the United States and is a factor in 15 percent of all premature births. Almost a decade ago, doctors began recommending high risk women take a regular baby aspirin to help prevent the condition, but a new study finds that information may not be getting out.

Preeclampsia can be deadly for a developing baby and dangerous for mom, too – years afterwards.

Tamar Krishnamurti, PhD, a assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, explained, “It’s not something that ends with delivery, but has ongoing implications for cardiovascular health.”

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Women with high blood pressure or kidney disease before pregnancy may be at high risk for developing preeclampsia during pregnancy. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended women at high risk take one baby aspirin daily.

“Actually, if you take a low dose baby aspirin, you can decrease the risk of developing preeclampsia because that aspirin is an anticoagulant,” Krishnamurti mentioned.

But is that information getting through? Researchers used data from a smartphone app called My Healthy Pregnancy to determine if pregnant women at high risk of preeclampsia were following recommendations.

“What we found, which was particularly interesting, was that about 37 percent of those patients who were prescribed aspirin, appropriately, were not aware that they were being prescribed aspirin,” Krishnamurti said.

The study also found that of the pregnant women who knew they should take baby aspirin, only 49 percent followed their doctor’s advice. Krishnamurti and her colleagues said they’re not sure why there is a problem with adherence. Some women may hesitate to take any medication during pregnancy, and others confuse safe drugs like baby aspirin with drugs that are not safe for pregnancy like ibuprofen.

Krishnamurti said, “But in a low enough dose, there is really no risk to the mother or fetus from taking it.”

Researchers say a digital platform like My Healthy Pregnancy could help flag patients with preeclampsia risk factors and could prompt more detailed conversations between doctors and women at risk about the benefits of taking low dose aspirin.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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PREECLAMPSIA BACKGROUND: Preeclampsia is a complication that can occur due to pregnancy. It is characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to organs, such as the liver or kidneys. Preeclampsia begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure had been normal. If left untreated, it can lead to very serious or even fatal conditions for both the mother and baby. The most effective treatment for preeclampsia is the delivery of the baby, though even after delivery it may take time to recover. If you’re diagnosed with pre-eclampsia before it is safe to deliver your baby, you face a challenging risk while waiting for your baby to mature until it’s safe to induce birth.


DIAGNOSING AND SYMPTOMS: Doctors can diagnose preeclampsia by checking the mother’s blood pressure. Many people do not have any symptoms. For people who do feel symptoms, the first signs are high blood pressure, protein in the urine and retaining water. Other signs can include headaches, blurry vision or light sensitivity, dark spots appearing in your vision, right side abdominal pain, swelling in your hands and face (edema), and shortness of breath. In order to treat the condition it’s important to share symptoms with your doctor. Severe preeclampsia symptoms are more noticeable. They include: hypertensive emergency (blood pressure is 160/110 mmhg or higher), decreased kidney or liver function, fluid in the lungs, low blood platelet levels (thrombocytopenia), and decreased urine production.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: Researchers at the Boston Children’s hospital have discovered that a compound made naturally by the body may be able to stop preeclampsia before it starts. It’s called the MEx therapy and it is purified MEx from MSCs isolated from human umbilical cords. After delivering MEx intravenously into the mother, the team saw evidence that they eventually migrated to cells in the uterus. This study was done in mice who have similar first trimester pregnancies to humans. So far, the study shows that MEx prevented maternal symptoms of preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction when given early.



Asher Jones

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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Tamar Krishnamurti, PhD, a assistant professor

Read the entire Q&A