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Painkillers can damage fertility of unborn girls - study

This fresh study prompts fresh warnings for pregnant women to only take paracetamol when necessary and compulsory.

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According to a report by UK Mail, the painkiller may have lasting effects on their granddaughters’ fertility should the pregnant mother continues.

It was further reported that scientists have found that human ovaries exposed to paracetamol for a week in laboratories lost up to 40 per cent of their egg cells.

In the womb, the study says baby girls exposed to painkillers like paracetamol end up being born with fewer eggs.

This would give them fewer years in which they could become pregnant and lead to an early menopause.

The study

The study, led by Dr Rod Mitchell from the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh and presented at the Fertility 2018 conference in Liverpool, tested the effect of paracetamol and ibuprofen on human foetal testes and ovaries over a week.

The Researchers counted germ cells that turn into sperm and eggs.

In the ovary, the number of egg cells fell by up to 40 per cent, while in testes the number of germ cells was reduced by more than a fifth.

Thus, paracetamol and ibuprofen are believed to interfere with a hormone called prostaglandin E2, which appears to play a vital part in the development of the foetal reproductive system.

Activities in unborn baby boys

The report noted that unborn boys could also be affected by painkillers should their mother use it often while pregnant with the boys.

However, the study showed that unlike women, whose egg supply is limited, the boys keep producing sperm throughout their lives.

This ultimately means the danger to the unborn male child's fertility is not as serious of his female counterpart.

Paracetamol's danger

One of the most widely used, recommended and accepted painkiller is Paracetamol. According to the clinical and maternal studies, the paracetamol and is the only painkiller regarded as safe for pregnant women globally.

However, previous studies have show that female rats and mice exposed to paracetamol in the womb have fewer eggs, smaller ovaries and go on to have fewer babies.

The previous research also showed that the fertility of future generations of rats could be affected by a foetus being exposed to painkillers.

The latest research has however shown the toll of analgesic drugs, including ibruprofen, on human foetal ovaries and may affect the way reproductive systems function in future.

The experts speaks

Professor Richard Sharpe from the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh, said: ‘This study identifies a potential risk from taking paracetamol or ibuprofen, although we don’t know exactly what effect it would have on human health nor what dose would be needed to harm fertility.’

Sharpe said the evidence that analgesic drugs interfere with production of sperm and egg cells is growing, adding: ‘We know the majority of women take analgesics in pregnancy for symptoms such as colds, headaches and fever.

‘There is a temptation, when paracetamol is there in the cupboard, to take it at the slightest sign of an ache or pain.’

Experts advice

This fresh study prompts fresh warnings for pregnant women to only take paracetamol when necessary and compulsory.

Sharpe said the NHS advises pregnant women to take the lowest dose of paracetamol for the shortest possible time.

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