Pregnant women who take Ibuprofen could be unwittingly harming the fertility of their unborn baby girls, a new study has revealed.
The research of human ovarian tissue is the first evidence that exposure to the common over-the-counter painkiller could damage the future fertility of unborn baby girls.
Taking the over-the-counter painkiller for just two days within first three months of pregnancy could cause the damage.
But even if pregnant women stop taking the painkiller, the damage could be irreversible, scientists also revealed.
The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, involved researchers from the universities of Edinburgh and Copenhagen analysing samples from 185 aborted human foetuses aged between seven to 12 weeks.
The findings suggested that taken in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, Ibuprofen may reduce the store of eggs in the girls’ ovaries.
Speaking about the results lead author Dr Séverine Mazaud-Guittot, at Inserm research institute in Rennes, said: “Baby girls are born with a finite number of follicles in their ovaries and this defines their future reproductive capacity as adults.”
“A poorly stocked initial reserve will result in a shortened reproductive life span, early menopause or infertility – all events that occur decades later in life,” she continued.
“The development of the follicles in the foetus has not been completed by the end of the first trimester, so if the ibuprofen treatment is short then we can expect the ovarian reserve to recover to some extent.
“However, we found that two to seven days of exposure to ibuprofen dramatically reduced the germ cell stockpile in human foetal ovaries during the first trimester of pregnancy and the ovaries did not recover fully from this damage.”
Dr Mazaud-Guittot went on to say that the study suggests that prolonged exposure to ibuprofen during foetal life may lead to long-term effects on women’s fertility and raises concern about ibuprofen consumption by women during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy.
“These findings deserve to be considered in light of the present recommendations about ibuprofen consumption during pregnancy.”
Recent figures have revealed that an estimated three in ten women take ibuprofen in the first three months of pregnancy.
According to the NHS pregnant women are generally encouraged to avoid taking ibuprofen with paracetamol recommended as a safer option.
“Ibuprofen shouldn’t be used when you’re 30 or more weeks pregnant, unless it’s on the advice of a doctor,” the site advises.
“This is because taking ibuprofen at this stage of pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of complications, including a heart problem in your baby and a reduced amount of amniotic fluid.”
The site goes on to advise pregnant women that if they have taken ibuprofen after 30 weeks of pregnancy, they should let their GP or midwife know so they can assess their baby’s wellbeing.
“The implications of our findings are that, just as with any drug, ibuprofen use should be restricted to the shortest duration and at the lowest dose necessary to achieve pain or fever relief, especially during pregnancy,” Dr Mazaud-Guittot continues.
“The wisest advice would be to follow currently accepted recommendations: paracetamol should be preferred to any anti-inflammatory drug up to 24 gestational weeks, and the latter should not be used thereafter.”
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