Taking paracetamol in pregnancy could affect the fertility of our descendants. This is revealed by a study led by Dr. Rod Mitchell, of the University of Edinburgh. The study is based on similar research, which had already highlighted the possible criticalities of the drug.
Paracetamol has so far been considered a relatively safe drug in pregnancy. Previous studies had highlighted possible negative consequences for female fertility. This study also widens the alarm to male fertility.
Scientists analyzed the effects of paracetamol and ibuprofen on samples of human fetuses and ovaries. Later, they extended the study to pregnant mice. Both types of tests have revealed negative effects on the fertility of offspring, both for females and for males.
In the tissues exposed to one of the two drugs for a week, the number of oocytes and spermatozoa decreased by 40%. As for the guinea pigs, one day of treatment was enough to have the first negative effects. Male offspring had a 17% reduction in spermatozoa. On the other hand, mice exposed to drugs for a week during the prenatal period had a reduction of almost a third.
Ibuprofen and paracetamol could affect prostaglandin molecules, which are essential for ovaries and testes. This would explain why the negative effects on those exposed in the womb of drugs. The effects could however be much longer lasting.
The researchers found that prenatal exposure to paracetamol and ibuprofen could result in epigenetic changes. The changes thus introduced would be inheritable and could also influence the fertility of future generations. For this reason, they advise to take the two drugs only on medical advice and if strictly necessary.