Page URL:

Taking paracetamol during pregnancy may reduce fertility of daughters

8 January 2018
Appeared in BioNews 932

Exposure to paracetamol during pregnancy may reduce the fertility of female offspring, suggests research in rats and mice.

Dr David Kristensen at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark and colleagues, reviewed three recent studies on the effects of paracetamol administration during pregnancy in rats and mice. All three studies found evidence for disrupted reproductive development of female offspring, including a lower number of eggs and reduced fertility in adulthood. The review was published in Endocrine Connections.

This may be a cause for concern as paracetamol is a commonly prescribed painkiller worldwide. Previous studies have already highlighted the risks associated with exposure to chemicals during pregnancy, including a link between prenatal exposure to analgesics and reduced fertility in male offspring (see BioNews 584), however studies on females had been lacking. Females, unlike males, are born with a set number of gametes. This means that any disruption during the development may be damaging to their future fertility. 

'Although this may not be a severe impairment to fertility, it is still of real concern since data from three different labs all independently found that paracetamol may disrupt female reproductive development in this way,' said Dr Kristensen. He added that further investigation was needed to establish any effects on human fertility. 

Despite similarities between rodent and human reproductive systems, it is difficult to know to what extent these findings are relevant to human pregnancies. The dosage and length of paracetamol administration in these studies may not be representative of a typical use of painkillers in pregnant women; in two of the studies the dose was much higher than the standard recommendation, and the drugs were given for a relatively high proportion of the pregnancy duration. 

Short-term use of paracetamol is currently considered safe during pregnancy. 'Current recommendations regarding paracetamol use for the shortest duration necessary to relieve pain during pregnancy should not change on the basis of this review article,' said Dr Rod Mitchell, consultant paediatric endocrinologist at the University of Edinburgh.

However, 'further research, including laboratory experiments using human tissues or large population-based studies looking at adults exposed to paracetamol in-utero, is required to determine whether paracetamol exposure during pregnancy can adversely affect fertility in humans', he added.

Is exposure during pregnancy to acetaminophen/paracetamol disrupting female reproductive development?
Endocrine Connections |  5 January 2018
Taking paracetamol during pregnancy may reduce fertility of daughters
EurekAlert |  5 January 2018
30 April 2018 - by Martha Henriques 
Three children have been cured of the worst symptoms of a genetic developmental condition with a 'remarkable' treatment in utero...
23 April 2018 - by Emma Laycock 
Taking painkillers during pregnancy could affect the future fertility of the fetus, suggests research on human tissue and in mice...
15 January 2018 - by Nina Chohan 
Men who regularly take the maximum recommended dose of ibuprofen may be at an increased risk of fertility issues...
3 July 2017 - by Emma Laycock 
The daily use of paracetamol in pregnant mice affects the brain development and behaviour of male offspring, according to researchers in Denmark...
1 February 2016 - by Fiona Ibanichuka 
Scientists have discovered that the use of painkillers during pregnancy in rats may reduce the fertility of their offspring...
15 November 2010 - by Seil Collins 
New preliminary research suggests a possible link between the use of mild painkillers during pregnancy and the birth of male children with congenital cryptorchidism, more commonly known as undescended testes, a condition which reduces male fertility. The rates of undescended testes seen in the study remained relatively low....
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.