Women with severe preeclampsia who received nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs during the postpartum period had no greater risk of persistent postpartum hypertension than women who didn’t take them, a study showed.

Additionally, though the numbers of women affected were small, there was no increased risk of severe maternal morbidity. Rates of pulmonary hypertension, renal failure, eclampsia, or intensive care unit admission were similar between women who received NSAIDs during the postpartum period and women who did not.

The single-center retrospective cohort study examined the records of 399 women with severe preeclampsia, 324 of whom (81%) were still hypertensive 24 hours post delivery (Obstet Gynecol. 2017;130:830-5. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000002247). Of this group, three-quarters (n = 243) received NSAIDs, while one-quarter (n = 81) did not.

After multivariable analysis, first author Oscar Viteri, MD, and his colleagues reported that 70% of patients who received NSAIDs had persistent postpartum hypertension, defined as a blood pressure of at least 150 mm Hg or a diastolic BP of at least 100 mm Hg obtained on two occasions at least 4 hours apart. This compared with a rate of 73% for the women who did not receive NSAIDs (adjusted odds ratio, 1.1; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.6-2.0; P = .57).

Relatively small numbers of women in each group experienced severe morbidity, limiting statistical analysis of these secondary outcome measures. Just six women who received NSAIDs and eight who did not (3% and 10%) developed pulmonary edema (OR, 4.4; 95% CI, 1.5-13.1).

Renal dysfunction occurred in 5% of the NSAIDs users vs. 8% of the nonusers (OR, 1.7; 95% CI, 0.6-4.8), and eclampsia occurred in two patients who took NSAIDs and none of the nonusers. Of those who took NSAIDs, 3% had an intensive care unit admission, compared with 8% of those who did not take these drugs (OR 2.4; 95% CI, 0.8-7.1).

Dr. Viteri and his coauthors at the University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, noted that a high proportion of women with severe preeclampsia received ibuprofen (40%), ketorolac (6%), or both (54%) during their postpartum hospital stay. This occurred despite a 2013 recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Task Force for Hypertension in Pregnancy urging clinicians to avoid NSAIDs in women with hypertension persisting for 24 hours post partum.

In nonpregnant women with hypertension who are taking beta-blockers or angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, NSAIDs use has been associated with increased systolic and diastolic blood pressure, said Dr. Viteri and his colleagues. There are several plausible physiologic mechanisms for this effect, including increased renal sodium retention from inhibition of prostaglandin E2. This potential effect, in particular, may have implications for women in the puerperum, since 6-8 L of fluid are returned to the maternal intravascular space during the early postpartum period.

However, “evidence on the effects of NSAIDs in otherwise healthy puerperal women with preeclampsia before delivery remains conflicting,” the investigators wrote. This study helps to fill the knowledge gap, though there are some limitations, including the fact that the non-NSAIDs arm was small, leaving an unbalanced study that was underpowered to detect differences in “rare but clinically significant” severe maternal morbidity. Also, the study captured only the inpatient period; because the mean duration of hospital stay was 4.5 days, the study missed a portion of the window of fluid volume redistribution, which occurs mostly during postpartum days 3-6.

Still, the findings from this large retrospective study warrant an adequately powered clinical trial to settle the question of the safety of NSAIDs for women with preeclampsia, the investigators said.

Dr. Viteri and his colleagues reported having no relevant conflicts of interest.