Pregnant women who take over the counter painkiller ibuprofen could harm the fertility of their unborn baby girl; a new study warns.
Taking the tablets for as little as two days within the first three months could lead to a short period of fertility, early menopause or infertility in the girls that grow up.
The study suggests that the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug taken in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy may reduce the store of eggs in the ovaries of their daughters in the womb. This is the first to suggest that ibuprofen exposure during the first trimester could affect foetal development, and scientists said the findings have raised concerns about the long-term effects of ibuprofen on the future fertility of these unborn girls.
Lead scientist Dr Séverine Mazaud-Guittot said: “Baby girls are born with a finite number of follicles in their ovaries and this defines their future reproductive capacity as adults.
“A poorly stocked initial reserve will result in a shortened reproductive life span, early menopause or infertility – all events that occur decades later in life.
“The development of the follicles in the foetus has not been completed by the end of the first trimester, so if the ibuprofen treatment is short then we can we can expect the ovarian reserve to recover to some extent. However, we found that two to seven days of exposure to ibuprofen dramatically reduced the germ cell stockpile in human foetal ovaries during the first trimester of pregnancy and the ovaries did not recover fully from this damage.”
It is currently estimated that three in ten women take the painkiller in the first three months of pregnancy.
What does the NHS say about ibuprofen during pregnancy?
The NHS advises women to avoid taking ibuprofen during pregnancy, and recommends Paracetamol as a safer choice. Before 30 weeks, ibuprofen has been linked to an increased risk of complications, including miscarriage. After 30 weeks, the complications include heart problems in the baby and a reduced amount of amniotic fluid.
The NHS advises that you check with your doctor or midwife before taking ibuprofen when pregnant.
What if I’ve already taken ibuprofen during pregnancy?
If you are after 30 weeks pregnant and have taken ibuprofen, speak to your midwife or doctor, who will usually asses your baby’s wellbeing in the womb to ensure nothing is wrong.