Paracetamol in pregnancy 'may affect unborn babies' fertility'

Modesto Morganelli
Aprile 16, 2018

Pregnant women who take painkillers may be harming the fertility of their unborn sons as well as daughters, researchers have warned.

Experts said the findings added to growing evidence some medicines, including Paracetamol, should be used with caution during pregnancy.

TAKING common painkillers including paracetamol during pregnancy could make grandchildren infertile, research suggests. Ovaries exposed to paracetamol for one week had more than 40 per cent fewer egg-producing cells, the research found, and after ibuprofen exposure the number of cells was nearly halved.

The effect of ibuprofen was even greater and the number of egg-producing cells was nearly half.

The scientists found that exposure to paracetamol or ibuprofen triggers mechanisms in the cell that make changes in the structure of DNA, called epigenetic marks. After a week, ovaries had reduced the number of egg-producing cells by 40 per cent.

Painkillers' effects on germ cells are likely caused by their actions on molecules called prostaglandins, which have key functions in the ovaries and testes, the researchers found. Rod Mitchell, who led the research, said, "We would encourage women to think carefully before taking painkillers in pregnancy and to follow existing guidelines - taking the lowest possible dose for the shortest time possible".

The research suggests, however, that even a small amount of paracetamol may have effects.

The team also tested the effects of painkiller treatment on mice that carried grafts of human foetal testicular tissue.

Women are at present advised to avoid ibuprofen, and only take paracetamol sparingly. While a single day of exposure to human doses of paracetamol led to a 17 percent decrease of sperm-producing cells, a week of exposure saw nearly one third fewer cells.

'Women should not be alarmed by the results. "Paracetamol is widely accepted as a safe painkiller for pregnant women to take, and can be very beneficial when a pregnant woman is suffering with a migraine, for example", he stated.

'It is important to recognise that the study only looks at tissue in the lab, which limits its relevance in humans'. However, when its results are considered in the context of similar recent studies, they become more interesting.

The amount was the same as two to seven days of a woman taking the drug in pregnancy.

Dr. Patrick O'Brien, consultant obstetrician and spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, added that further research was required before firm conclusions could be drawn.

As of now, guidelines say that, if necessary, paracetamol - also known as acetaminophen - should be used at the lowest possible dose for the shortest possible time. "If this doesn't treat the pain, they should to speak to their GP, midwife, or obstetrician". It was funded by the Medical Research Council, Wellcome and the British Society of Paediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes.

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