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Friday, 9 February, 2001, 00:44 GMT
Aspirin 'cuts pregnancy danger'
Aspirin
Aspirin may aid a successful pregnancy
Taking low-dose aspirin may help women have a successful pregnancy, research suggests.

A team from the Institute of Health Sciences in Oxford found that women who took low doses of the painkiller were less likely to have a stillbirth, or to develop the life-threatening condition pre-eclampsia.

They also found that the drug can reduce the chances of premature birth.


Data from this review should be made available to pregnant women

Dr Lelia Duley, Institute of Health Sciences
The study comes just one week after Danish researchers warned that pregnant women who take painkillers in the same class as aspirin - the non steroidal anti-inflammatories - may be at increased risk of miscarriage.

However, aspirin was not included in that study.

The researchers reviewed more than 30 previous studies of more than 30,000 women to assess the benefits of anti-platelet drugs, of which low-dose aspirin is the most common.

They found that women who had taken anti-platelet drugs had a 15% reduced risk of pre-eclampsia, an 8% reduction in premature birth and 14% less chance of their baby dying in the womb.

Pre-eclampsia

Pre-eclampsia affects up to 8% of pregnancies and accounts for up to 15% of all deaths of women during childbirth.

The condition is a combination of high blood pressure and the build up of protein in the urine.

If diagnosed early, the condition can be eased by bed rest and blood pressure drugs.

But in some cases, pre-eclampsia can lead to a more severe condition, called eclampsia, which threatens the life of both mother and child.


Aspirin should only be taken when advised by an obstetrician

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
Experts do not know what causes the condition, although it is believed it may be linked to over-production of thromboxane, a substance produced in the body's platelets, which play an important part in ensuring blood clotting.

Anti-platelet drugs such as aspirin are often used to help thin the blood in patients with high blood pressure, and the researchers suggest that they can play a similar role in preventing pre-eclampsia.

Report author Lelia Duley, an obstetric epidemiologist at the Institute of Health Sciences, said: "Data from this review should be made available to pregnant women as well as clinicians and policy makers.

"As the reductions in risk are relatively moderate, relatively large numbers of women will need to be treated to prevent a single adverse outcome.

"From a public health perspective, however, even these moderate benefits may be worthwhile."

A spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said a previous large study, called the CLASP study, had failed to demonstrate that taking aspirin reduced the risk of pre-eclampsia.

He said: "It appears from this systematic review that the use of aspirin to prevent pre-eclampsia may have to be reconsidered.

"Further analysis would be needed to clarify the optimal dose of aspirin and the best time to start the drug in pregnancy.

"Furthermore, aspirin should only be taken when advised by an obstetrician.

"It is important to understand that aspirin will not completely abolish the risk of pre-eclampsia, and even when pre-eclampsia occurs, aspirin will, at best, make a slight difference to the outcome."

The research is published in the British Medical Journal.

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