How do painkillers affect pregnant women?

When it comes to the most popular painkillers, it is usually assumed that they are safe for women expecting a baby. Meanwhile, more and more often one can hear about suspicions that they adversely affect the reproductive system of the fetus. Research is still ongoing, but it is worth bearing in mind that we are talking about a real threat.

Painkillers for pregnant women

It is estimated that pain relievers are currently one of the most commonly used drugs. It is not surprising, therefore, that pregnant women also reach for them. Bernard Jegou, director of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, dealt with these topics. His research shows that since the 1990s, pregnant women have been consuming several times more paracetamol than men. Moreover, the data are similar regardless of the trimester in question. A similar trend can also be observed when analysing agents containing ibuprofen. However, there is growing evidence that such practices can lead to an increased risk of cryptorchidism and expectation.

What is cryptorchidism and expectation?

Cryptorchidism is an inborn vagina we deal with in boys. It can affect either one or both testes, which are located not in the scrotum, but in the abdomen or groin. This defect occurs in about four percent of male newborns, however, because in the first months of a child's life it often occurs spontaneously, with time this percentage drops to one percent. However, if the testicles remain in the abdominal cavity, we must take into account the very serious consequences of this state of affairs. Overheating of the testicles may lead to infertility, but the development of cancer is also a common phenomenon.

Also, expectation is a male malformation. In this case, however, the urethra is not properly discharged from the outside. It is assumed that this problem may affect even one in 200 or 300 male newborns, and although this defect may be combated, it becomes necessary to perform surgery.

Results and interpretation of studies

The team led by Dr. Jegou decided to analyze the observational studies published in recent years, which combined the occurrence of the defects described here with the use of paracetamol and ibuprofen by pregnant women. Conclusions are not clear, however, there is a correlation between first trimester paracetamol intake and problems with cryptorchidism in newborns. As far as ibuprofen intake is concerned, this dependence is more difficult to prove, but there are indications that aspirin is not blameless either.

Experimental studies on rats also seem to be worth analysing. When pregnant females were given high doses of analgesics, more frequent problems with sexual defects in male foetuses were observed. However, these doses were really high and it is hard to imagine that people would be willing to take them without being aware of the scale of the threat. So how should a future mother behave? There is currently no direct evidence that there is a threat to be feared. Future mothers should, however, exercise some moderation, and talk to a doctor about longer therapy with analgesics.