A recent study has revealed a startling potential side effect of taking Ibuprofen. Scientists, who are looking for potential environmental causes for the prolonged decrease in fertility rate in Western countries, decided to investigate the role of painkillers in that downward trend.
It is generally believed that a woman is born with a fixed number of eggs but scientists know that environmental factors during that woman’s early development in the womb can impact the number of eggs she will be born with. With 30% of women taking ibuprofen regularly during their pregnancy, scientists wanted to ask if ibuprofen could affect fertility.
Early studies in rats confirmed that ibuprofen might be influencing fertility rates and studies on men also confirmed that the drug can alter the levels of sex hormones in the blood.
Blood this recent study is the first to directly examine the role of ibuprofen in terminated foetuses. They found that ibuprofen did cross the placental barrier (so it can definitely end up in the baby’s blood stream). They also cultured cells from those foetuses and found that bathing the cultures in a normal amount of ibuprofen resulted in a 50% to 75% decrease in the number of ovarian cells developed.
However, what happens in a dish is not necessarily what will happen in the human body. As the lead scientist puts it,
“If we see effects on germ cells, which we do in the dish, that could indicate that there are potential for effects in ‘real life’ and potential for effects on fertility – but we haven’t shown or proved that by what we have done [in this study].”
In other words, there’s a lot more work to prove that ibuprofen actually harms fertility in foetuses and you should still follow the current advice on ibuprofen. Only take the minimum amount necessary, and if pregnant you should try to take paracetamol over ibuprofen.