The ef­fects of parac­eta­mol on pregnancy

Parac­eta­mol may pos­si­bly di­min­ish male de­vel­op­ment

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - VICTORIA ALLEN

WOMEN who take parac­eta­mol dur­ing pregnancy may have sons with less mas­cu­line traits – and a lower sex drive.

The painkiller, of­ten prescribed to preg­nant women for pain and fever, can al­ter the male brain as it is thought to block testos­terone when ba­bies are de­vel­op­ing in the womb.

As a re­sult, boys could show less typ­i­cally mas­cu­line char­ac­ter­is­tics and be sex­u­ally dys­func­tional, a study pub­lished in the jour­nal Re­pro­duc­tion sug­gests.

These re­sults have so far been proven only in mice, due to con­cerns about giv­ing women parac­eta­mol in pregnancy. Ex­perts em­pha­sise that preg­nant women typ­i­cally take painkillers for much shorter pe­ri­ods than the daily dose that was given to mice, but coau­thor Dr David Mob­jerg Kris­tensen still called the find­ings “wor­ry­ing”.

“These days it has be­come so com­mon to take parac­eta­mol that we for­get it is a medicine. And all medicine has side ef­fects,” he said.

Parac­eta­mol is the world’s most pop­u­lar painkiller and the only one deemed suit­able to take dur­ing pregnancy. Last year Univer­sity of East Anglia re­searchers said it was “per­fectly safe”.

But the lat­est study, led by the Univer­sity of Copen­hagen, found that the painkiller cur­tails de­vel­op­ment of “male be­hav­iours”. The au­thors say it blocks male hor­mones in the brain vital to whether the brain of an un­born baby be­comes mas­cu­line or fem­i­nine.

When given to mice in sim­i­lar doses ap­proved for preg­nant women, their male off­spring were less able to mate with fe­males, less ag­gres­sive, and dis­played ter­ri­to­rial be­hav­iour seen usu­ally in fe­males.

Pre­vi­ous re­search has shown sim­i­lar drugs called ph­tha­lates caused young boys to spend less time play­ing tra­di­tion­ally mas­cu­line games. Stud­ies have also shown parac­eta­mol’s prop­er­ties in­crease the risk of mal­formed tes­ti­cles.

Kris­tensen said: “We have demon­strated that a re­duced level of testos­terone means that male char­ac­ter­is­tics do not de­velop as they should. It is very wor­ry­ing.”

It fol­lows a study last year by the same group show­ing fe­male mice be­came in­fer­tile at a younger age if their moth­ers had parac­eta­mol dur­ing pregnancy.

How­ever this does not mean that parac­eta­mol must never be taken dur­ing pregnancy.

“If you are ill, you should nat­u­rally take the medicine you need. Af­ter all, hav­ing a sick mother is more harm­ful for the foe­tus,” Kris­tensen said.

Dr Rod Mitchell, re­search group leader of the MRC Cen­tre for Re­pro­duc­tive Health at the Univer­sity of Ed­in­burgh, said the daily doses of parac­eta­mol given to mice over sev­eral weeks of pregnancy did not re­flect how preg­nant women typ­i­cally take the drug – for a 24- or 48-hour pe­riod.

“The find­ings raise the pos­si­bil­ity that pro­longed ex­po­sure to parac­eta­mol might af­fect mas­culin­i­sa­tion of the brain,” he said.

But Mitchell em­pha­sised: “It is im­por­tant to recog­nise that man­age­ment of pain and fever dur­ing pregnancy are im­por­tant for the health of mother and baby.” – Daily Mail

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