London: Taking paracetamol - an over-the- counter treatment for pain relief - during pregnancy may impair the fertility of female offspring, a study has warned.
Researchers reviewed three separate rodent studies that report altered development in the reproductive systems of female offspring from mothers given paracetamol during pregnancy, which may impair their fertility in adulthood.
Paracetamol, or acetaminophen, is commonly taken by pregnant women worldwide.Recent studies have linked paracetamol use during pregnancy with disruptions in the development of the male reproductive system but the effects on female offspring had not yet been investigated.
David Kristensen and colleagues from Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark, reviewed findings from three individual rodent studies that evaluated the effects of paracetamol taken during pregnancy on the development of the reproductive system in female offspring. In rodents and humans, females are born with a finite number of eggs for reproduction in the future.
In these reviewed studies, rodents given paracetamol during pregnancy, at doses equivalent to those that a pregnant woman may take for pain relief, produced female offspring with fewer eggs. This means that in adulthood, they have fewer eggs available for fertilisation, which may reduce their chances of successful reproduction, particularly as they get older.
"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, which indicates further investigation is needed to establish how this affects human fertility," said Kristensen.
Although there are parallels between rodent and human reproductive development, these findings have yet to be firmly established in humans.
"As scientists, we are not in the positon to make any medical recommendations and we would urge pregnant women in pain to consult with their general practitioner, midwife or pharmacist for professional advice," said Kristensen.