I recently wrote an article about how ibuprofen may affect male fertility and now there is a evidence that it could affect female fertility as well. A new study published in the journal, Human Reproduction, suggests that if ibuprofen is taken by a woman early in pregnancy, it may affect her daughter’s future fertility. More specifically, the study suggests that if a woman is pregnant with a female embryo and takes ibuprofen in the first three months of pregnancy, it might reduce the number of eggs her daughter is born with.
The study looked at the effect of ibuprofen on developing ovaries by studying ovarian tissue from 185 terminated fetuses aged between 7 to 12 developmental weeks. The researchers from France and Denmark first analyzed blood from umbilical cords of 13 fetuses, whose mothers had taken ibuprofen within hours before termination, to confirm that ibuprofen did actually cross through the placenta. Tissue from the 185 fetuses was then cultured in petri dishes with varying concentrations of ibuprofen or no medication. After seven days of exposure, tissue that had been cultured with ibuprofen showed reduced cell numbers, less proliferating cells, and increased cell death. Ibuprofen exposure resulted in a dramatic loss in germ cells, which are cells that develop into eggs.
Obstetricians have always cautioned patients about the use of ibuprofen in pregnancy and this research may give us more reason to do so. Since women are born with a fixed number of eggs and are unable to generate more with time, early ibuprofen exposure could reduce the number of eggs they have for their future fertility. The key word here though is “could”. We need to be cautious about drawing any steadfast conclusions from these results. Given that this research was all done in vitro (in petri dishes), it’s difficult to determine how this translates into what actually happens in the human body.
Pregnant women needing pain medication should discuss the risks and benefits with their physicians. In general, pain medication should be taken only when necessary, at the lowest doses, and for the shortest time possible.