According to a recent study published in the journal, Human Reproduction, some of the common over-the-counter pain killers taken during pregnancy may result in male infertility. This study conducted on 2,300 Danish and Finnish women shows that even acetaminophen can affect the reproductive health of the developing boy child.
Study researchers, Henrik Leffers, MD, PhD, of Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark, and colleagues, suggest that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may act as hormonal disruptors, affecting the normal development of the male sexual organs. Chemicals, like phthalates, are known to act as endocrine disruptors, affecting the normal sexual development of the child. Leffers warned that a 500 mg acetaminophen may contain more hormone disruptors than the ten most common environmental disruptors during pregnancy.
The study was based on findings from a small number of boys whose testicles were late to descend. This is considered as a risk factor for poor semen quality. Researchers do agree that more studies are required in the same field, but there is an urgency to conduct such studies. The researchers warn that use of these compounds will lead to an exposure that can affect a large proportion of the population.
In this study, mothers of 834 Danish boys and 1,463 Finnish boys were asked to answer the questionnaire for collection of data. All the boys were examined for signs of undescended testicles and found 42 boys with the condition. Over 64% of these boys had the mothers taking painkillers during pregnancy.
Results show that women who took more than one kind of mild pain killer had more than 7 times increased risk of having boys with undescended testicles. The risk increases a 2.3 fold if the pain killers were taken during the second trimester of pregnancy. The major drawback of the study was that it was based on very small number of affected boys. Many of the boys born to mothers who reported to have used painkiller did not have any sign of undescended testicles. A similar study conducted on animals show that acetaminophen and NSAID painkillers can affect sexual maturation.