Experts are studying the effects of taking ibuprofen during pregnancy
Ibuprofen is a pain reliever that is widely used. However, pregnant women should avoid ibuprofen during pregnancy. Not only does it reduce pain in pregnant women, it also appears to negatively affect the fertility of unborn daughters. A French team of researchers has now found that taking ibuprofen during pregnancy can make young women infertile.
The reproductive doctors at INSERM found in their current investigation that taking ibuprofen during pregnancy can lead to infertility in the daughter. The experts published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Human Reproduction".
Many women take ibuprofen during pregnancy
When examining human ovarian tissue, the scientists were able to find the first evidence that exposure to ibuprofen could damage the fertility of future offspring. The pain reliever is common and is used by one in three women during pregnancy.
Fertility problems seem to trigger two days of ingestion
When exposed to the drug, fetuses developed a dramatic loss of germ cells, which form follicles and determine how many eggs a woman can release in her lifetime. Taking the tablets for just two days during pregnancy was enough to cause fertility problems in subsequent female children, the doctors explain. There have also been previous studies showing that the pain reliever ibuprofen can potentially lead to male infertility.
Ibuprofen enters the unborn child's bloodstream unhindered
The so-called placenta barrier does not seem to stop the ibuprofen. If women took the drug during pregnancy, ibuprofen could also be found in the umbilical cord blood with the same concentration as in the blood of the expectant mother. In other words, the ibuprofen can also be found in the child's bloodstream in the same concentration after ingestion .
The effects of taking ibuprofen on children
The negative impact on unborn children occurs two to seven days after taking the usual daily dose, the authors say. In this way, very large numbers of egg embryonic precursors are destroyed. The division of many cells was also severely restricted. In their investigation, the scientists found that, depending on the dose and the duration of use, up to half of the so-called primordial germ cells are destroyed. Another disadvantage of taking the pain reliever was that even after ibuprofen was discontinued, the damaged cells only recovered in small numbers.
How does the reduced number of eggs affect the body?
Girls are born with a finite number of follicles in their ovaries, and that number defines their future reproductive capacity as adults, explains study author Dr. Séverine Mazaud-Guittot from INSERM in a press release. Taking the pain reliever in the first six months of pregnancy appears to greatly reduce the amount of eggs in the ovaries of future daughters. The amount of egg cells naturally decreases in the course of life. But there is usually a sufficient supply of egg cells until menopause begins. A lower number of eggs can cause early menopause or infertility.
A short intake of ibuprofen can have far-reaching consequences
Exposure to ibuprofen for a period of only two to seven days drastically reduces the number of germ cells in human fetal ovaries during the first trimester of pregnancy, the doctors explain. And the ovaries don't seem to be recovering completely from this damage. This suggests that prolonged exposure to ibuprofen during the life of the fetus can have long-term effects on fertility, the experts said. This raises concerns about ibuprofen use in women in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. Shorter treatment cycles of less than two days would likely result in less damage to the ovarian reserve, the researchers suspect.
Take ibuprofen in later pregnancy?
For example, the NHS advises pregnant women not to take the drug for the first six months, as the intake has already been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage. If pain relief is required in the first six months of pregnancy, paracetamol is recommended instead. The lowest effective dose is recommended for the shortest possible time. Pregnant women are categorically advised not to take ibuprofen even in late pregnancy because of an increased risk of complications. In Germany, package inserts, midwives and doctors also warn pregnant women that the effective pain reliever can lead to malformations in later pregnancy. At best, expectant mothers take no pain reliever during pregnancy.
185 killed human fetuses were used for the experiments
The study, which also included researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh and Copenhagen, included samples from a total of 185 dead human fetuses aged seven to twelve weeks. In these, the doctors cultivated the ovarian tissue in the laboratory and exposed part of the tissue to ibuprofen. This is the first study to look at the effects of ibuprofen on girls' ovarian tissue, and the first study to show that ibuprofen can cross the placental barrier during the first trimester of pregnancy and expose the fetus to the drug, the authors explain.
More research is needed
Of course, there are also some experts who were not involved in the study who believe that the results of the investigation must be confirmed by further research in order to analyze the long-term consequences of taking ibuprofen. Pregnant women should generally ideally discuss the intake of medicines with a doctor in order to determine the personal risks and benefits, the doctors advise. (as)