As reported in the news, recent research says taking painkillers during pregnancy could have an impact on the fertility of unborn babies.
According to the new research, carried out by Edinburgh University, some painkillers can leave marks on the DNA and affect the fertility of future generations.
The researchers concluded medicines, including paracetamol, should be used with caution during pregnancy. This backs up existing medical advice to mothers-to-be: that paracetamol should be used sparingly, if needed.
Taking Painkillers During Pregnancy Could Cause Fertility Problems For Babies
By analysing human fetal testes and ovaries, scientists were able to identify changes to the human tissues after exposure to paracetamol.
Ovary tissue exposed to paracetamol for a week was found to have 40% fewer egg-producing cells. Ibuprofen exposure reduced the number almost by half.
Girls produce all of their eggs while still in utero, so this change could have a huge impact on their future fertility.
When the same tests were repeated with testicular tissue, the researchers found exposure to paracetamol or ibuprofen was linked with a 25% reduction in sperm-producing cells.
Although male babies don’t produce their lifetime supply of sperm while still in the womb, a reduction in sperm-producing cells could limit fertility in the future.
Previous animal studies have found painkillers administered during pregnancy caused a reduction in the fertility of female rats and their offspring.
Taking painkillers during pregnancy has been found to affect the structure of DNA, and these changes can be inherited. This means fertility problems could be passed down through the generations.
The study, published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal, backs up existing advice: painkillers should be avoided during pregnancy whenever possible.
When paracetamol is considered necessary, it should be used for the shortest time possible and in the smallest possible doses. Ibuprofen should be avoided during pregnancy.
Despite current advice, many women continue to take painkillers during pregnancy. The researchers hope more studies will be carried out to determine to what extent this will affect future generations.