Baby aspirin taken for high-risk pregnancy complications does not appear to harm brain development among very premature children assessed when 5 years old, according to a French study. It may actually have some benefit, the study hints.

As this was an observational study, Dr. Stephane Marret from Rouen University Hospital, cautioned in an email to Reuters Health, it is necessary to confirm our data in other studies.

Moreover, physicians and pregnant women must always appreciate the potential impact on the developing baby of medications given to mothers during pregnancy, Marret added.

Doctors sometimes recommend baby aspirin to pregnant women at high risk for certain complications. Marret and colleagues assessed the outcomes of 656 infants born prior to 33 weeks of pregnancy to 584 women with pregnancy-related complications, such as high blood pressure, or kidney or immune problems. A total of 125 of these women took low-dose (baby) aspirin for about 12 to 13 weeks while pregnant, the researchers note in the journal Pediatrics.

In outcome assessments conducted 5 years later, Marret's team found no significant association with any infant or child outcome measures and use of low-dose aspirin during pregnancy.

Among the infants in the study, rates of stillbirth, neonatal death, brain bleeding, and brain injury were similar in baby aspirin-exposed and non-exposed groups.

After allowing for other associated social and medical factors, the researchers likewise noted no neurological impairments associated with low-dose aspirin exposure among the 341 children available for physical, neurological, and psychological examination at the age of 5 years.

Actually, Marret and colleagues saw a trend toward lesser rates of behavioral impairment among the children exposed to low-dose aspirin. Just 12 and 7 percent of this group had hyperactive and conduct problems, respectively, compared with 23 and 14 percent of those not exposed.

The investigators also noted lower overall rates of emotional and peer problems among children exposed to baby aspirin in the womb.

These findings warrant further clinical investigation, Marret and colleagues conclude, particularly in light of a potential neurological benefit among children exposed to low-dose aspirin during gestation.

SOURCE: Pediatrics, January 2010.