Aspirin and Pregnancy

image001Aspirin is one of the oldest, cheapest and best pain relievers known to man. However, during pregnancy and breastfeeding, you might want to choose an alternative. Your healthcare provider will be able to help you choose a medication that will work for you. Learn why taking aspirin is risky during pregnancy and what others things you should bear in mind.

Is It Safe to Take Aspirin During Pregnancy?

The safety issues linked with aspirin and pregnnacy can be a concern for a lot of pregnant women. Most healthcare providers will probably recommend that you NOT take aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) during pregnancy. There are some medical reasons your doctor may need you to take very low dose aspirin, but you should always check with your doctor before starting or continuing aspirin. If you are taking aspirin for another medical reason, do NOT stop taking the medication without talking to your doctor!

Risks of Taking Aspirin During Pregnancy

In general, there are some very real risks in taking aspirin during your pregnancy. Aspirin and pregnancy combined may:

  • Cause bleeding problems for you and for the baby. Aspirin is an anti-coagulant that interferes with the platelets’ ability to clot your blood.
  • Increase the risk of abruption placenta in which the placenta pulls away from the sides of the uterus. Placental abruption decreases the amount of nutrients provided to the fetus, increases the risk of bleeding, and can cause other problems. If you are diagnosed with abruption placenta, your healthcare provider will usually order strict bed rest and increased monitoring. This can be a very serious condition.
  • Increase the risk of miscarriage. Miscarriage can result from a placental abruption but other studies do not show this relationship.
  • Affect the growth of your baby. Some studies have linked low birth weight with use of aspirin during pregnancy.
  • Delay labor. Aspirin is often used as a medication to help delay preterm labor.
  • Increase the risk of lung problems for the baby. Aspirin can cause decreased prostaglandins in the baby. This normally happens during labor and signals the baby’s lungs to take over the work of breathing instead of relying on the placenta. A premature drop in prostaglandins can cause fluid to accumulate in the baby’s lungs, leading to lung and blood pressure problems for the infant.

When Should I Take Aspirin During Pregnancy?

Before taking aspirin, you need to figure out the compatibility of aspirin and pregnancy. There are certain medical conditions for which your healthcare provider will want you to continue taking aspirin. In these cases, the risks of NOT taking aspirin far outweigh the risks of taking aspirin during pregnancy.

  • If you have antiphospholipid syndrome (Hughes Syndrome), you may have antibodies in your body that can lead to blood clots and other problems of coagulation. This autoimmune disease requires that you take aspirin.
  • If you have chronic high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes or a history of preeclampsia in previous pregnancies, your doctor may want you to take aspirin.

How Can I Avoid Aspirin?

While there are options for you to avoid aspirin. When you are looking for over-the-counter pain medications during pregnancy, be sure to check the labels of all medications. Unless prescribed by your healthcare provider, avoid medications with ingredients called aspirin, salicylates, acetylsalicylic acid and ibuprofen. The brand names on these medications will not tell you if they contain aspirin or NSAIDs, but the ingredient list should list the generic names. Many cold and pain medications can contain aspirin or ibuprofen so check all drug labels.

Unless you have an allergy, an occasional acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a safe alternative to aspirin that does not cause bleeding complications. If you have a fever, it is important to control that symptom, so be sure you have something on hand for those occasions. Of course, your healthcare provider will probably recommend that you avoid taking any medications during pregnancy – except those prescribed specifically by her.

What About Aspirin and Breastfeeding?

Like the situation of aspirin and pregnancy, aspirin does pass through your bloodstream and into breast milk. Typically, peak levels in breast milk are seen at about 3 hours after you take the medication. Just like in your body, aspirin can cause blood platelets not to work as well so there is a risk of bleeding. In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that research indicates that there may be an association between aspirin and the development of Reye’s Syndrome in children. Since there are other very good options for you to use for minor pain during breastfeeding, you should probably avoid the use of aspirin as long as you are breastfeeding. Most doctors highly recommend that you NOT take aspirin during breastfeeding. Talk to your healthcare provider about better options.