Preeclampsia is a serious health condition that occurs during pregnancy and/or up to 6 weeks after delivery. Preeclampsia involves a rise in blood pressure after 20 weeks of pregnancy and possibly large amounts of protein in the urine. Preeclampsia affects 3.4% of pregnancies in the United States.
How does preeclampsia affect my baby and me? Preeclampsia can cause the mom to have bleeding, seizures, stroke, kidney damage, liver damage, pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), and die. For babies, preeclampsia can cause preterm birth (before 37 weeks), intrauterine growth restriction (very small size), and death.
What is my risk for developing preeclampsia? Women are at higher risk for developing preeclampsia if they have or had any of the following: Preeclampsia or high blood pressure in previous pregnancy, Chronic high blood pressure, Diabetes (Type 1 or Type 2), Kidney disease, Autoimmune Diseases (i.e. Lupus, RA), First time pregnant or it has been more than 10 years since you had a baby, Pregnant with twins, Obesity, Older than 35 years of age, You are African-American or Black, Became pregnant via in-vitro fertilization (IVF), Sickle cell disease
What steps can I take to help reduce my risk for developing preeclampsia in pregnancy? If your doctor thinks that you are at higher risk of developing preeclampsia, he/she will ask you to take a low-dose (81mg) aspirin every day starting at 12 weeks of pregnancy (and preferably before 16 weeks of pregnancy). You will continue the aspirin until 36 to 37 weeks of pregnancy. Adopt a healthy lifestyle, including healthy eating, quitting smoking, and exercise, such as walking.
Are there risks to taking aspirin during my pregnancy if I am at increased risk of developing preeclampsia? The risk of taking low-dose aspirin during pregnancy is small. Aspirin is not known to cause any birth defects in the baby. In general, aspirin affects your platelets (blood cells that work to form blood clots when you get injured). Thus, there is a small risk of bleeding. It is also possible to be allergic to aspirin. The benefits of maintaining a healthy pregnancy and carrying a healthy baby to term are greater than any small risks linked to taking low-dose aspirin every day.
More Resources: Preeclampsia Foundation – www.preeclampsia.org, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – www.acog.org, U.S. Preventative Services Task Force – www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org.