[ASC-media] Pain killers and new mums - is there a danger?

Samantha Lucia lucias at hri.org.au
Thu Aug 12 12:52:42 EST 2004

The Heart Research Institute
Pain killers and new mum¹s ­  is there a danger?
For immediate release on Thursday 12 August 2004
A team of medical scientists are today embarking on a new trial to see if
new mums can safely take common pain killers, without risk of increasing
their blood-pressure. In some women, who have a history of high
blood-pressure, taking the painkillers could lead to an increased risk of
stroke and heart attack.
The team, led by Associate Professor Annemarie Hennessy from The Heart
Research Institute, specialises in high blood-pressure in women during
pregnancy and it¹s link to the early onset of heart disease.
In April this year Hennessy¹s group observed that some women developed
life-threatening levels of blood-pressure after they were given
non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID¹s) following childbirth.
The observation was only made in women with a history of high
blood-pressure. It then prompted the NSW Department of Health to include a
warning, in it¹s circular to doctors, of prescribing NSAID¹s to some new
³Our new trial is about playing it safe. We want to find out if NSAID¹s
increase the risk of developing higher levels of blood-pressure in all women
after pregnancy - not just those with a history of blood-pressure problems,²
Hennessy said.
The risk may be a result of NSAID¹s tendency to cause water retention in
some women, at a time when they would naturally lose water and drop in
³Women experience water and salt retention during pregnancy so that their
babies receive nourishment and grow,² Hennessy explained.
³After childbirth, the mother¹s blood-pressure drops and bloating
disappears. Some women can lose up to 20 kilograms, within three days of
giving birth, through water loss alone.²
Unfortunately, the rapid weight loss coincides with a time of extreme pain
for some women. Especially in the case of caesarean section birth or
complications during labor. Doctors often prescribe common painkillers,
including NSAID¹s.
³NSAID¹s are great at reducing pain for new mums, but they can also cause
water retention. So, while the body is trying to get rid of water and salt,
the NSAID¹s may be causing it to hold onto them,²
³This may cause the mother¹s blood-pressure to rise rapidly. Very high
blood-pressure can potentially leading to stroke, heart attack or worse,²
Hennessy said.
The team will recruit the help of 426 volunteer new mum¹s who have no
history of blood-pressure problems, have elected to have a caesarean section
birth and agree to take NSAID¹s for pain relief after delivery. The
volunteers blood-pressure will be monitored before and after childbirth.
The trial will run over the next two years, with initial results available
in early 2006.
Background Information
Blood pressure and heart disease.
High blood pressure is associated with heart disease as it damages
blood-vessel walls and linings, leading to atherosclerosis ­ the thickening,
clogging and hardening of blood vessels through the build-up of fatty
Atherosclerosis is the primary cause of heart disease ­ including heart
attacks, stroke and angina. Heart disease is the World¹s number one killer.
High blood pressure also increases the risk of blood vessel plaque rupture.
This can lead to blood clots forming in blood vessels already constricted by
atherosclerosis ­ leading to stroke and heart attack.
Why The Heart Research Institute works on high-blood pressure and pregnancy?
The Heart Research Institute strives to detect, prevent and reverse heart
disease by better understanding Atherosclerosis ­ the thickening, clogging
and hardening of blood vessels.
Women can experience the same amount of blood-vessel damage due to high
blood-pressure during pregnancy, as can occur over many years in the rest of
the population. 
The Heart Research Institute, works closely with women who experience high
blood pressure during pregnancy to study the molecular and physical changes
that result in blood-vessel damage. These women are also at high risk of
developing heart disease in their 50¹s and 60¹s.
By understanding the process of blood-vessel damage during pregnancy, The
Heart Research Institute hope increase the understanding of atherosclerosis
and heart disease.
About the observation made earlier this year.
The Heart Research Institute observed that from the medical records of over
300 women, eight developed dangerously high levels of blood pressure after
they were prescribed NSAID¹s. Each of these women had prior history of high
blood pressure and some were on preventative medication. To reverse the
affect, the women were simply stopped from taking NSAID¹s.
However, the observation spurred the NSW Health Department to include a
precautionary warning to doctors about the possible affects of prescribing
NSAID¹s to women after childbirth, who have a history of high blood
For more information or interview and image opportunities, please contact:

Samantha Lucia     
Communications Manager
The Heart Research Institute
Phone: 61 2 9550 3560
Mobile: 0407 909 102
Email: media at hri.org.au

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