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Low-dose Aspirin Used to Treat Pre-Eclampsia

Researchers at Melbourne’s royal Women’s Hospital have found that early intervention with the use of low-dose aspirin can help prevent pre-eclampsia for women who may be high-risk for the potentially deadly pregnancy complication.

The use of low-dose aspirin works to inhibit the growth of particular proteins which are behind the development of of the disease. Extensive research, combined with a large body of evidence has led to Professor Shaun Brennecke, Director of Maternal-Foetal Medicine at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, to recommend that women at high risk of pre-eclampsia take low doses of aspirin early in their pregnancy.

Pre-eclampsia is a potentially deadly pregnancy complication because its symptoms are often invisible. Symptoms present later in pregnancy and manifest mainly as protein in urine, high blood pressure and swelling of the hands and feet. By this stage, the only cure for pre-eclampsia is to give birth.

World-wide around 76,000 women and 500,000 babies die every year as a result of pre-eclampsia. Fortunately in Australia the death rate from pre-eclampsia is much lower, at around one in every 10,000 women dying from the disease. Pre-eclampsia affects one in twenty pregnancies.

Until recently there was no early detection test for pre-eclampsia; it was a case of watching closely and waiting. But now an assessment between weeks 11 – 13 a woman can be assessed to determine if she is at risk. Assessment consists of blood pressure checks, an ultrasound to determine blood flow through the uterus and a blood test. This combination of assessment assists medical practitioners in determining risk.

Professor Brennecke explains that by targeting the right women and treating them with low dose aspirin from early in the pregnancy, the impact on reducing the particularly severe forms of pre-eclampsia is good.

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