Mild Painkillers in Pregnancy May Harm Male Fertility

A recent study suggests that the use of some mild painkillers— <"">acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen—by pregnant women could have something to do with the increase in male reproductive issues that has been realized in the past few decades, said Reuters.

According to the research, pregnant woman taking a combination of two or more mild analgesics experienced a higher risk of bearing sons with undescended testicles, explained Reuters, which explained that the condition is called cryptorchidism. Cryptorchidism is a known risk factor for inferior semen and even testicular cancer, noted Reuters.

The Finnish, Danish, and French researchers’ work was published in the journal, Human Reproduction. The team called for more research.

The team found that most pregnant women living in Western countries reported taking mild analgesics and, while physicians warn against taking medications during pregnancy, paracetamol (sold as acetaminophen in the US), ibuprofen, and aspirin are—for the most part—considered to be safe given certain situations and at specific times, said Reuters. Cryptorchidism was found to affect about one in 11 boys with rates varying from two-to-nine percent in some Scandinavian countries, note Reuters.

Also according to the research, which looked at a group of 834 Danish women and 1,463 Finnish women, globally, there has been a decline in sperm counts, reported Reuters. The women’s baby boys were examined at birth for cryptorchidism—from mild (testis located higher in the scrotum) to severe (testes located higher in the abdomen), said Reuters.

The study was corroborated by other work conducted by scientists in Denmark and France studying rats and analgesics, which revealed that the pain killers led to reduced supplies of testosterone during a key point of time during pregnancy, when male organs are developing, explained Reuters. The effect of painkillers during the second trimester was similar to endocrine disrupters such as the chemicals in the phthalate family, said Reuters citing the research conducted on lab rats.

The human study revealed that use of more than one painkiller at the same time resulted in a seven-fold increased risk of bearing sons with some type of cryptorchidism, said Reuters. The researchers pointed out that in the second trimester, this increase rose 16 times.

Several years ago, we wrote that a study published in the journal, Birth Defects Research Part B found that the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) during the first trimester of pregnancy can cause congenital birth defects. NSAID painkillers include aspirin, ibuprofen, cox II inhibitors, and naproxen sodium such as those found under brand name Bayer, Advil, Motrin, Aleve, and Celebrex.

While the study found these medications can lead to several congenital defects, heart defects were the most common. Cardiac septal defects were particularly common. This kind of defect refers to a hole in the septum between the left and right valves of the heart. The research also showed that the proportion of infants with multiple congenital abnormalities was also higher among the mothers who had taken NSAIDs during the first trimester, compared to mothers who had not.

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