Painkillers may have effect on your baby’s fertility

Nope, you read right.

Scientists have studied data and suggested that the use of painkillers by women during a pregnancy may have effect on their offspring when it comes to future generations’ intent to conceive.

Scientists studied foetal human tissue and the effects that these had under treatment of paracetamol and ibuprofen. Both are common generic medicines used to manage pain, and hence a common feature of them is the management of pain receptors – the dulling of pain to the point that receptors are less responsive so that the body adapts and is less affected. The scientists found that in both cases, when the foetal human tissue was exposed to pain relief drugs, the number of germ cells, which are the ones that develop into sperm and eggs, were reduced after a week.

Hence, the use of painkillers by women during their pregnancy could lead to these effects being transferred to their off spring.

In other words, their children could have difficulty conceiving.

The problem with this research, as with many other similar kinds, is that it was done not on humans but on tissue-compatible cases. Tests were done on mice and tissues grown in laboratory, and while they have similar bearing to humans, we cannot say for definite if this is what would happen. Unfortunately, it is unethical to prescribe high doses of pain-relief to women only to observe the effects on their offspring a generation later. That cannot happen.

Current pregnancy guidelines do state that it is safe to take paracetamol, but only at the lowest dose and for the shortest space of time.

It is best prescribed under the supervision of a doctor, but it is difficult to prevent pregnant women to walk into a supermarket and get some for themselves!

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Edinburgh and Copenhagen University Hospital. It was funded by the UK Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, and a British Society of Paediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes Research Award. It was published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The researchers did say their results suggested that painkillers have an effect on the level of germ cells, which may alter how DNA is formed and so could potentially affect future generations. But these results came from tests that were not performed in humans, and many other factors that contribute to fertility were also not accounted for.

And while these kinds of studies may never be fully conclusive, it is always better to be aware, than sorry!