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Painkillers in pregnancy ‘harm fertility of the unborn’

MOTHERS-TO-BE who take painkillers during pregnancy could harm the fertility of their unborn child, a study finds.

Paracetamol and ibuprofen reduce the number of cells which later become eggs or sperm in babies, according to research published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Painkillers may also affect the fertility of future generations by triggering changes in the structure of DNA which can be inherited, it adds.

Dr Rod Mitchell, who led the research at the University of Edinburgh, said: ‘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.’

Tissue samples of ovaries exposed to paracetamol for one week had more than 40 per cent fewer egg-producing cells, the research found, and after ibuprofen exposure the number of cells was almost halved. As girls produce all their eggs in the womb, those born with a reduced number of cells could experience an early menopause.

Testicular tissues exposed to paracetamol or ibuprofen in a culture dish had around a quarter fewer sperm-producing cells. Mice carrying grafts of human foetal testicular tissue showed a 17 per cent drop in the number of sperm-producing cells after a day and were down by almost a third after a week.

Dr Patrick O’Brien, of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said further research was needed.

‘Women should not be alarmed by the results. Paracetamol is widely accepted as a safe painkiller for pregnant women to take, and can be very beneficial when a pregnant woman is suffering with a migraine, for example,’ he added.

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