You would hope that pregnancy, being the time in a woman’s life she’s most likely to feel uncomfortable all the time and experience various symptoms in need of suppressing, that you would be able to pop a few painkillers and get on with your day. Apparently not.
In fact, pregnant women are already discouraged from using paracetamol, and are only allowed to take it at the lowest possible dosage for the shortest possible time. For ibuprofen, the painkiller that increases your risk of a heart attack from one week of regular use, that should be completely avoided. Now, new studies have found that both painkillers not only carries the risk of potential miscarriages and fetus abnormalities, but can also affect the baby’s future fertility.
Researchers at Edinburgh University studied the way in which the drugs interact with human and animal tissue and found that if human tissue is exposed to either drug for one week (in a dish) it had a reduced number of germ cells, which produce sperm and egg cells. They found that ovaries exposed to paracetamol for one week had over 40% less egg-producing cells, while ovaries exposed to ibuprofen almost halved them.
Since girls produce all of their eggs in the womb, this means that taking ibuprofen or paracetemol during pregnancy can adversely affect babies future fertility, and make them more likely to experience early menopause. The scientists also looked at the impact on male fetus’ and found that testicular tissue exposed to the painkillers had around 25% less sperm-producing cells.
On further inspection, they found that exposure to the painkillers triggered cells to make DNA structural changes, where they developed epigenetic marks. These marks can be inherited, meaning that the fertility issues can be passed on to future generations.
Dr. Rod Mitchell, lead researcher of the study at the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health which was published by Environmental Health Perspectives, told the BBC:
‘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 confirms previous concerns about taking painkillers during pregnancy, and therefore endorses current advice – as detailed earlier - should be followed.
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