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04/19/2018 10:58 EDT | Updated 04/19/2018 11:15 EDT

Painkillers During Pregnancy Can Affect Fertility Of Future Generations: Study

There are a lot of dos and don'ts when you're expecting.

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It's no secret that pregnancy can be a pain, literally!

From headaches due to changing hormones to muscle pain due to carrying extra weight, it can be tough. But experts are now warning expectant moms to think twice before taking painkillers for relief, as the drugs could affect the fertility of future offspring — and that includes grandchildren!

Scientists at Edinburgh University looked at the effects of paracetamol (also known as acetaminophen, and is available under the trade name Tylenol) and ibuprofen on the testes and ovaries of human fetuses. They found that the medications left permanent marks on DNA, which could affect a future baby's fertility.

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One experiment found that when human tissue was exposed to either painkiller for one week, it had "reduced numbers of cells that give rise to sperm and eggs," Science Daily reports.

But while testicular tissue exposed to painkillers reduced sperm-producing cells by about a quarter, the effects on ovaries were far worse. The number of egg-producing cells in ovaries were cut in half when exposed to ibuprofen and reduced by more than 40 per cent when exposed to paracetamol.

Since females are born with a fixed number of eggs, a reduced number due to painkillers could cause them to reach menopause earlier, Bioscience Technology reports. It could also mean fertility issues for future generations as the altered DNA is passed down.

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Researchers are now warning women to be cautious when taking the drugs while pregnant.

"We would encourage women to think carefully before taking painkillers in pregnancy and to follow existing guidelines — taking the lowest possible dose for the shortest time possible," lead researcher Dr. Rod Mitchell said.

According to BabyCenter Canada, it is OK for expectant moms to take acetaminophen to treat headaches, as long as it's taken "on its own with no added ingredients." However, the site noted that some studies have linked acetaminophen and asthma in offspring.

Ibuprofen, on the other hand, should not be taken at any point during pregnancy, the site warned.

The new study, which was published in Environmental Health Perspectives, came at an appropriate time, just ahead of Infertility Awareness Week. It also comes just after new research published in The Lancet found that poor diet before conceiving could affect an unborn baby's health.

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