Preeclampsia — a dangerous form of hypertension — affects about one in every twelve pregnancies in the United States. Low-dose aspirin can lower the blood pressure of pregnant patients who have an increased risk of preeclampsia. However, a recent survey conducted via a prenatal care app shows that most high-risk patients aren’t benefitting from aspirin, even when it’s recommended by a healthcare provider. 

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, University of Pittsburg Medical Center (UPMC), and Carnegie Mellon University conducted the survey using the MyHealthyPregnancy smartphone app. The team compared responses from pregnant patients with and without preeclampsia risk criteria to medical records. Results of the study were published recently in JAMA Network Open; they indicate that under-utilization of low-dose aspirin may result from a communication gap between providers and patients.

Medical records showed that out of 124 survey respondents with one or more preeclampsia risk factors, only 90 were advised to take aspirin. Of these, 37% didn’t recall this recommendation. Of all patients advised to take aspirin, just 49% said they followed their provider’s guidance in taking the medication. The study also revealed that 441 respondents reported two or more preeclampsia risk factors. However, only 3% to 6% of this group were advised to take aspirin by their provider.  

The results suggest that information-sharing between providers and pregnant patients needs to be improved. Based on the scale of response to the in-app survey, the research team believes MyHealthyPregnancy could help bridge the communication gap and provide helpful support and resources, thus improving adherence to aspirin protocols and generally empowering patients to make informed decisions during pregnancy. The app could also help providers identify at-risk patients.

Preeclampsia can lead to serious health complications. The condition is associated with 40% of preterm births and 75% of postpartum maternal deaths. Currently, MyHealthyPregnancy is only available to patients in the UPMC network, but the research team hopes to bring it to a wider audience in the future.