A study in Denmark shows that the prolonged use of painkillers such as aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen during pregnancy may actually lead to certain reproductive flaws, particularly with male infants.
The male babies of pregnant women who were found to have taken more than one type of mild painkiller during pregnancy had a higher tendency to have undescended testes, a condition otherwise known as cryptorchidism.
Cryptorchidism, literally meaning “concealed testicle,” occurs when one or both of the male infant’s testicles have gotten stuck during the fetus’s descent. It also puts men at risk for low semen quality and at higher risk for testicular cancer in the future. Experts say, though, that many males with undescended testes aged without encountering these problems.
"Many boys can have undescended testicles at birth and then the condition will disappear [by] 1 year of age," posits Dr. De-Kun Li, senior research scientist at the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute in Oakland, California. "Therefore, there is controversy over which cases should be really considered as cryptorchidism. Most studies only included those cases who remained cryptorchidism at age 1. But this study appeared to include all cases at birth. This raised the question whether those are real cases."
The researchers suspect it is the mechanism that represses headaches that prevents or restricts the production of prostaglandins, which are derived from the prostate gland, and other tissues. It is involved in muscular control, hormone and cell growth regulation, among others.
"Women may want to try to reduce their analgesic use during pregnancy," said Dr. Henrik Leffers, senior scientist at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark. "However, as biologists this is not something we can advise women about. So we recommend that pregnant women seek advice from their physician before using mild analgesics and in general follow the advice to use as little medicine during pregnancy as possible."