Bridget Desmukes was surprised when her OB-GYN recommended low-dose aspirin at her first prenatal appointment this past spring. She knew about daily low-dose aspirin being prescribed to people recovering from a heart attack or stroke. But for pregnant women?
In a past pregnancy, Desmukes had developed preeclampsia, a potentially serious complication that involves high blood pressure. A small amount of daily aspirin, it turns out, can significantly cut the risk of developing preeclampsia in pregnancy. It's currently recommended for many pregnant women by two influential groups — the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts commissioned by the federal government.
The challenge, some OB-GYNs believe, is getting the word out to women who are at risk that the low-dose aspirin regimen is something that could benefit them. In that way, Desmukes and her husband, Jeffrey, were lucky to hear about it early in her pregnancy.
She says her doctor "explained to us that because of my age and the fact that I had a history of preeclampsia, aspirin would be recommended for me to take. Just precautionarily — to keep the flow of nutrients and oxygen and everything to the baby and help it continue to thrive and grow."
Desmukes says at first she was hesitant. A nurse by training, she knows any medicine can have side effects, and says she prefers a "holistic" approach to her own health. But she also knows the risks of preeclampsia, and how it can be fatal — it's a leading cause of the high maternal mortality rate in the U.S. And as a black woman, Desmukes' risk of dying in childbirth is elevated; maternal mortality rates among black women in the U.S. are about three times those of white women.