Aspirin is generally used to treat unwanted health conditions such as toothache, cold and fever. Women who have dysmenorrhea also take aspirin to relieve pain associated with their monthly period, showing the versatility of aspirin as a medicine.
A new study, however, suggests that aspirin does not just help alleviate existing pains and illnesses. It can also help prevent some health problems. In "Low-Dose Aspirin for Prevention of Morbidity and Mortality From Preeclampsia: A Systematic Evidence Review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force" published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on April 8, a team of researchers reviewed 23 randomized, controlled trials and observational studies involving women with high preeclampsia risks and found that taking aspirin can be beneficial for some pregnant women.
In the study, Jillian Henderson, from the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., and colleagues found that taking low-dose aspirin after the third trimester of pregnancy can lead to a 24 percent drop in the occurrence of preeclampsia, a condition that affects approximately 4 percent of pregnant women in the U.S and is characterized by elevated blood pressure and excess protein in the urine after the 20th week of pregnancy.
Prevention of preeclampsia is crucial as the condition can put the baby's health and life at risk. Preeclampsia can lead to low birth weight, preterm birth and even stillbirth. It is estimated that 15 percent of preterm births can be attributed to preeclampsia. Women who develop the condition during pregnancy are also at risk of potentially fatal organ damage or stroke.
The researchers also found that taking low-dose aspirin every day is associated with a drop in risks for preterm birth by 14 percent and slow fetal growth by 20 percent. The researchers did not also find evidence that taking daily low-dose aspirin has harmful effects on pregnant women who are at high risk of preeclampsia.
"Daily low-dose aspirin beginning as early as the second trimester prevented clinically important health outcomes. No harms were identified, but long-term evidence was limited," the researchers concluded.
Based on the findings, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that women with high risks for preeclampsia, such as those with history of the condition and those with diabetes or high blood pressure prior to pregnancy, take 81 milligrams of low-dose aspirin daily after the 12th week of gestation.