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Ibuprofen, Aspirin During Pregnancy May Affect Male Fertility


The use of ibuprofen, aspirin, paracetamol, or any combination of these drugs during pregnancy may increase the chance that baby boys will be born with undescended testicles. Also known as cryptorchidism, this condition affects male fertility and can contribute to cancer in later life.

How safe are ibuprofen and aspirin during pregnancy?

Researchers are concerned that pregnant women who use pain killers such as ibuprofen may be exposing unborn male children to the risk of cryptorchidism, a condition that affects about 1 in every 1,000 boys. No previous literature has linked the use of ibuprofen in pregnancy with birth defects, although use of the drug at 30 weeks gestation and beyond may cause premature closure of the ductus arteriosus and prolong labor and delivery.

In the new study, investigators surveyed women in Finland and Denmark about their use of pain killers, which were mostly taken for headaches and muscle aches. They found that women who used more than one pain killer at the same time, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, had a sevenfold increased risk of having a son with cryptorchidism compared with women who did not take pain killers.

In addition, pregnant women who took a pain killer for longer than two weeks were nearly 2.5 times as likely to have a boy with undescended testicles. Use of the drugs during the second trimester doubled the risk and those who used more than one of the drugs increased the likelihood of cryptorchidism by 16-fold.

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When the researchers looked at the drugs individually, ibuprofen and aspirin used was associated with a fourfold risk of cryptorchidism while paracetamol use seemed to be associated with double the risk. For now, scientists do not know whether pain killer use during pregnancy may cause any change in baby girls.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services website on women's health, ibuprofen is in the pregnancy category C group prior to 30 weeks gestation and pregnancy category D at 30 weeks and beyond. This means that, in Category C, there are no good studies in humans, and in animals treated with the drug some offspring had problems.

For Category D, studies in humans and other reports show that when pregnant women use the drug, some infants are born with problems related to the medication. However, in some serious situations, the drug may help the mother and infant more than it might harm them.

Dr. Henrik Leffers, senior scientist at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagan and the leader of the research, explained in a UK Telegraph article that while further research is needed, “women may want to try to reduce their analgesic use during pregnancy.” He and his colleagues recommend that pregnant women consult their physicians before they take mild pain killers such as ibuprofen and aspirin.

UK Telegraph
US Department of Health and Human Services