Taking painkillers during pregnancy may affect baby's future fertility

The amount was the same as two to seven days of a woman taking the drug in pregnancy. They found egg cells either died or failed to grow and multiply at the normal rate

Painkillers in pregnancy 'harm fertility of the unborn'

Staff at Edinburgh University have conducted extensive research and came to the conclusion that pain medications such as paracetamol and ibuprofen when taken during pregnancy adversely affect the fertility of the fetus.

Dr Rod Mitchell, who led the research at the University of Edinburgh, 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".

Dr Channa Jayasena, a senior lecturer in reproductive endocrinology at Imperial College London, said: 'This latest study raises the possibility that paracetamol and ibuprofen may reduce the growth of the germ cells which later become eggs or sperm in unborn babies.

According to the Australian government's Health Direct website, "Paracetamol, which is not a Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), is usually recommended as a safer choice than ibuprofen but check the reason for pain with your midwife, doctor or pharmacist".

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Scientists at the university studied the impact of paracetamol and ibuprofen across a series of tests created to establish how they impact on the unborn child.

The British study is the first to examine the effects of painkillers on girls' and boys' fertility, and to try to identify what is happening to cells.

The team of researchers looked at the effects of paracetamol and ibuprofen on samples of human fetal testes and ovaries. After ibuprofen exposure, the number of cells was nearly halved.

Scientists have previously said ibuprofen and paracetamol reduce the number of cells that would eventually become ovaries.

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In the case of unborn male children, sperm-producing cells reduced by almost 25 percent after the testicular tissue was exposed to paracetamol or ibuprofen.

Girls produce all of their eggs in the womb, so if they are born with a reduced number it could lead to an early menopause. Testicular tissue exposed to painkillers in a culture dish had around a quarter fewer sperm-producing cells after exposure to paracetamol or ibuprofen.

Previous studies with rats had shown that painkillers administered in pregnancy led to a reduction in germ cells in female offspring. This affected their fertility and the fertility of females in subsequent generations.

The scientists found that exposure to Paracetamol or ibuprofen triggered mechanisms in the cell that made changes in the structure of DNA, called epigenetic marks. These marks can be inherited, which is a possible explanation as to how the effects of painkillers on fertility may be passed on to future generations.

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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.

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