LONDON – Paracetamol is the painkiller considered safest for pregnant women. However, researchers investigating reproductive defects in baby boys such as undescended testes say there may be a link between low levels of testosterone and paracetamol intake.
According to research, taking the painkiller paracetamol in pregnancy for a week or more could have effects on a developing male foetus.
Prof Richard Sharpe, of the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh, said the incidence of disorders involving damage to male fertility was remarkably high. Among young men across the United Kingdom (UK) and in northern Europe, “something like one in six will have had one of these disorders”, known collectively as testicular dysgenesis syndrome.
Researchers are probing the possible causes, including the possibility that something in the parents’ diet or lifestyle might be responsible.
Women who needed pain relief for longer than a day should be advised to consult their doctor because pain or fever in pregnancy needed to be addressed.
“Paracetamol is an effective painkiller and effective in lowering temperature. We don’t want pregnant women to be suffering from those things, but we have to recognise that in situations where often paracetamol is taken without a second thought, there might be side-effects,” Mitchell said.
Prof Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said the study raised questions about the safety of the drug. “Pregnant women who have been taking paracetamol to ease discomfort – either as prescribed by their doctor or self-medicated – should not panic as a result of this research. But if they are concerned about taking the drug regularly over a long period of time, they should make a non-urgent appointment with their GP, or visit their local pharmacist,” she said.
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