Preeclampsia, a kind of high blood pressure, is a serious health condition that can affect women after the 20th week of pregnancy or after giving birth. Without treatment, preeclampsia can cause health problems for mom and baby. For example, a woman with untreated preeclampsia can have problems with her kidney or liver, or problems with how her blood clots. Preeclampsia during pregnancy increases the risk of premature birth (when a baby is born early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy).
How can low-dose aspirin help?
Low-dose aspirin is also called “baby aspirin” or 81 mg (milligrams) aspirin. For some women low-dose aspirin can help reduce the risk for preeclampsia. If your provider thinks you’re at risk for preeclampsia, he may want you to take low-dose aspirin to help prevent it. Make sure to talk to your provider to see if treatment with low-dose aspirin is right for you.
You can buy low-dose aspirin over-the-counter, or your provider can give you a prescription for it. If your provider wants you to take low-dose aspirin to help prevent preeclampsia, take it exactly as they tell you to. Don’t take more or take it more often than your provider says.
Am I at risk for preeclampsia?
Although we don’t know exactly what causes preeclampsia, there are some things (risk factors) that can make you more likely to have this condition than other women. You might be at higher risk for preeclampsia if:
- You had preeclampsia before, in a previous pregnancy. The earlier in pregnancy you had preeclampsia, the higher your risk is to have it again in another pregnancy.
- You are pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets, or more).
- You have high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease or an autoimmune condition like lupus.
To diagnose preeclampsia, your provider measures your blood pressure and tests your urine for protein at every prenatal visit. If you’re at high risk for preeclampsia, your provider may want you to start taking low-dose aspirin after 12 weeks of pregnancy.
What are the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia?
Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia include:
- Swelling in the legs, hands or face.
- Sudden weight gain (2 to 5 pounds in a week).
- Headache that doesn’t go away.
- Changes in vision, like blurriness, flashing lights, seeing spots or being sensitive to light.
- Nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), vomiting or dizziness.
- Trouble breathing.
- Pain in the upper right belly area or in the shoulder.
Remember, preeclampsia can happen during pregnancy, or after the baby is born (up to 6 weeks after baby’s birth). If you have even one sign or symptom, call your health care provider right away.