Ibuprofen is a common pain reliever used by many people, including pregnant women. While it is known that medications taken during pregnancy can harm the unborn baby by increasing the risk of birth defects and miscarriage, ibuprofen is considered safe in the first and second trimesters. However, recent studies suggest that taking ibuprofen during early pregnancy may harm the fertility of female children developing in utero.
Study Shows Dramatic Loss of Germ Cells
Researchers from the University of Rennes examined ovarian tissue from 185 female fetuses. These were seven to twelve weeks old and stemmed from legal abortions. Some were treated with ibuprofen, the others were not. The shocking result: those fetuses exposed to the pain reliever suffered a drastic loss of germ cells that either died or did not divide properly.
The most drastic effects were observed after 7 days of treatment with ibuprofen. The number of egg cells was reduced by half, and the ovaries did not completely recover from the damage. In addition, the researchers found that ibuprofen can cross the placental barrier in the first trimester and enter the bloodstream of the unborn child. The results were published in the journal Human Reproduction.
Reproductive Health of Daughters at Risk
This is especially significant given the fact that girls are born with a limited number of follicles that affect their fertility later in life. If fewer follicles than normal are available, women aren’t able to have children for as many years. Premature menopause and infertility can also result. According to the researchers, the ovarian reserve is able to recover after short-term use of ibuprofen. However, the damage caused by prolonged use is not completely reversible.
What Do the Results Mean?
What effect the results of the study actually have is still unclear given that it was conducted in a laboratory setting and the effect on female fetuses in utero may differ. It is also unclear how a reduced number of egg cells will affect a given woman’s fertility in the future.
Caution is Advised
Since the development of follicles in the fetus is not yet complete at the end of the first trimester, the study suggests that taking ibuprofen may be a concern even in the first trimester of pregnancy and not just in the last trimester as previously thought. Considering that about 30 percent of women take ibuprofen in the first trimester of pregnancy, further research is needed to confirm the findings and to further investigate the influence of the pain reliever on the reproductive health of female offspring.