(CBS) - Taking low-dose "baby" aspirin during pregnancy may prevent a serious complication many women face, preeclampsia.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force today published a draft of their recommended guidelines and final evidence summary on prescribing low-dose aspirin as a preventive measure against preeclampsia for pregnant women at high risk for the condition. The Task Force strongly recommends doctors prescribe a small dose -- 81 milligrams per day -- beginning after 12 weeks of pregnancy.
The Task Force, an independent, volunteer panel of health experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine that advises government health agencies on medical guidelines, found low-dose aspirin every day lowered the risk of preeclampsia in high-risk pregnant women by 24 percent.
Preeclampsia is a dangerous disorder that affects about 7 million pregnant women each year, and most typically impacts women who have a history of diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease or a prior prior history of preeclampsia.
The panel added that the new research they reviewed finds aspirin maintenance therapy can reduce the risk of pre-term birth by 14 percent. Low-dose aspirin was also found to cut rates of premature birth and intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), which is when a baby develops at an abnormally slow rate while in the womb.
"Preeclampsia can cause serious health problems for both expectant mothers and their babies," said Task Force member Dr. Jessica Herzstein, in a press release. "The good news is that pregnant women who are at high risk for developing preeclampsia can take a low dosage of aspirin daily to help to prevent the condition. This can result in better health outcomes for both the mother and the baby."
The panel says new research supports the claim that low-dose aspirin does not pose a significant health risks to a mother or the fetus, such as placental abruption, postpartum hemorrhage, fetal intracranial bleeding and stillbirths.
Preeclampsia's symptoms, which occur late in the pregnancy at around 20 weeks, include dangerously high blood pressure and protein deposits in urine. If left untreated, preeclampsia can develop into eclampsia, a life-threatening condition that causes seizures late in pregnancy. Research also shows women who develop preeclampsia during pregnancy are at higher risk for elevated blood pressure after pregnancy.
"Once preeclampsia happens, we don't really have any kind of great treatment other than delivering the baby and sometimes we try bed rest," Dr. Jacques Moritz, director of gynecology at Mount Sinai Roosevelt, told CBS News.
Raisa Bari, 31-years old, developed preeclampsia late in her pregnancy.
"I had no idea what it was, let alone I didn't know what was happening to me or why my blood pressure was so high," she told CBS News.
It's been six weeks since Bari gave birth and her doctor will monitor her blood pressure until it returns to normal. The new mother said she plans to take low-dose aspirin if she decides to have another child.
The Task Force last reviewed their recommendation in 1996, at which time they found insufficient evidence to support prescribing low-dose aspirin to reduce preeclampsia risk in certain women.
The recommendations are available on the USPSTF website for public review and comment until May 5, after which time the agency will publish their final recommendations.
© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Posted by Melissa Brunner