Jan. 23 (UPI) -- First-time mothers may be able to reduce their risk for delivering pre-term by taking low-dose aspirin, a new study by researchers at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has found.
In results published Thursday in the Lancet, researchers report that daily low-dose aspirin, taken starting as early as the sixth week of pregnancy through the 36th week, may lower the risk for pre-term birth among first-time mothers.
Overall, the clinical trial, which included more than 11,000 women in several low- and middle-income countries, determined that women taking daily low-dose aspirin were 11 percent less likely to deliver before the 37th week of pregnancy, compared to those given a placebo.
"Our results suggest that low-dose aspirin therapy in early pregnancy could provide an inexpensive way to lower the preterm birth rate in first-time mothers," study co-author Marion Koso-Thomas, of NICHD's Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch, said in a statement.
According to NICHD, pre-term birth is the most common cause of infant death and the leading cause of long-term neurological disability in children. While advances in newborn care have improved survival for babies born prematurely, care is often limited or unavailable in many parts of the world, researchers say.
Previous studies have suggested low-dose aspirin could reduce risk for pre-eclampsia, a potentially life-threatening blood pressure disorder that occurs during pregnancy, but researchers say the studies were too small too draw firm conclusions from.
The NICHD study enrolled 11,976 first-time mothers from seven sites in India, Pakistan, Zambia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala and Kenya. Roughly half were assigned at random to receive 81 milligrams of aspirin daily; the rest were given a daily placebo.
Women remained in the study only if they maintained a pregnancy for more than 20 weeks.
In all, pre-term birth -- delivery prior to week 37 -- occurred in 11.6 percent of the women who took aspirin and in 13.1 percent of the women who took the placebo. Similarly, birth prior to week 34 occurred in 3.3 percent of the aspirin group compared to 4 percent of the placebo group.
Women in the aspirin group also had a lower rate of perinatal mortality -- stillbirth or newborn death in the first seven days of life -- compared to the placebo group. The risk for high blood pressure disorders of pregnancy at term did not differ significantly between the groups, researchers reported.