Acetaminophen Use in Pregnancy Could Affect Son’s Fertility

Acetaminophen Use in Pregnancy Could Affect Son’s Fertility

Acetaminophen Use in Pregnancy Could Affect Son’s Fertility

New research in mice suggests that long-term exposure to acetaminophen during pregnancy could lower a male’s production of testosterone, possibly affecting his fertility.

The results suggest that if a pregnant woman takes acetaminophen for several days it could affect her unborn boy. The boy’s future sperm could be lowered, Medical News Today (MNT) reports.

According to the authors of the study, the risks of low testosterone in male fetuses include common reproductive disorders seen at birth, such as an undescended testis (cryptorchidism) and hypospadias, a urethral malformation in which the urine outlet is not in the normal position at the end of the penis. Low sperm counts and testicular germ cell cancer can appear in young adulthood, according to MNT.

One of the authors, pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Rod Mitchell, a Wellcome Trust clinical research fellow at the University of Edinburgh, says, “This study adds to existing evidence that prolonged use of acetaminophen in pregnancy may increase the risk of reproductive disorders in male babies.” Mitchell’s advises pregnant women that the drug “be taken at the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time.”

The study was conducted by Dr. Sander van den Driesche and colleagues at the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh and was published in Science Translational Medicine, a journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. To examine the effects of acetaminophen on testosterone production, the researchers used a xenograft model in which fragments of human fetal testes were transplanted into castrated mice. The xenograft technique allowed the researchers to avoid the problems that would be encountered in trying to measure testosterone production in unborn boys and link these with drug exposure in pregnancy. The authors say their model “reflects physiological development and can be used to test the effects of chemical exposures on testosterone production,” according to MNT.

The grafted mice were treated three times a day for seven days with an acetaminophen dose equivalent to a human dose of 20 mg per kg of bodyweight. The researchers found that testosterone levels in the blood dropped by 45 percent and the weight of the seminal vesicle glands fell by 18 percent. Seminal vesicles secrete the large part of the semen fluid, and the researchers used their weight as a biomarker of exposure to testosterone. Theses results are compared with mice receiving no acetaminophen in a placebo.

Exposure to acetaminophen, an over-the-counter drug available under brand names including Tylenol, for a single day, did not affect these measures of testosterone production. The researchers say that while it is too early to say exactly how these findings apply with respect to pregnant woman’s use of acetaminophen, “the findings caution against extended use of acetaminophen during pregnancy,” according to Medical News Today. They say further research is needed to understand how acetaminophen affects testosterone production in male fetuses.

The UK’s Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health says pregnant women should consult a doctor about treatment of pain or fever. Dr. Martin Ward-Platt says expectant mothers should avoid prolonged acetaminophen use and “should always consult with their health care professional before taking any prescription or over-the-counter medicine.” Dr. Ward-Platt says fever during pregnancy can be harmful to the developing embryo so small doses of acetaminophen are sometimes necessary.



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