Taking painkillers during pregnancy could impact your baby's future fertility

There is uncertainty over the safety of taking painkillers while pregnant [Photo: Getty]
There is uncertainty over the safety of taking painkillers while pregnant [Photo: Getty]

Mums-to-be who take painkillers during pregnancy could affect the fertility of their unborn child in later life, a new study suggests.

The research by Edinburgh University also revealed that the drugs could also affect the fertility of future generations because it may leave marks on DNA.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that paracetamol and ibuprofen reduce the number of cells, which later become eggs or sperm in babies.

Previous research found that pregnant women who take Ibuprofen could be unwittingly harming the fertility of their unborn baby girls.

But the new research found that taking painkillers in pregnancy could harm future fertility of subsequent offspring, which would therefore have an impact on boys as well as girls.

The research found that tissue samples of ovaries exposed to paracetamol for one week had more than 40 per cent fewer egg-producing cells, and after ibuprofen exposure the number of cells was almost halved.

This could lead to a risk of fertility issues and also early menopause.

With boys, the drugs reduced sperm-producing cells by around a quarter.

Mice carrying grafts of human foetal testicular tissue showed a 17 per cent drop in the number of sperm-producing cells after a day and were down by almost a third after a week.

Could taking painkillers while pregnant impact the fertility of future generations? [Photo: Getty]
Could taking painkillers while pregnant impact the fertility of future generations? [Photo: Getty]

Commenting on the findings, Dr Rod Mitchell, who led the research at the University of Edinburgh’s MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, 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.”

Reacting to the findings, Dr Patrick O’Brien, of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, told Science Media Centre that further research was needed.

“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.”

“We recommend that women follow current guidance and take the lowest effective dose of paracetamol for the shortest possible time. If this doesn’t treat the pain, they should to speak to their GP, midwife, or obstetrician. Pregnant women are generally advised to avoid taking ibuprofen as it is associated with an increased risk of compilations,” he added.

Recent figures have revealed that an estimated three in 10 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 also advises 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.

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