Painkillers; Paracetamol and Pregnancy

Painkillers; Paracetamol and Pregnancy



How many times have you taken a paracetamol due to having a head cold or a headache or any niggling aches and pains?


Painkillers have been used routinely since the 1950’s but it is only emerging 60 plus years later of the consequences of frequent use and particularly in pregnancy.

Unfortunately, pain killers such as paracetamol are considered safe in pregnancy and are available to buy over the counter without advise, most often self-prescribed. It is considered class B on the scale of medication which means there is no risk associated with the use in;  controlled animal studies
Research released from the University of Edinburgh in Jan 2016- from testing ON rats- found that when a mother was given painkillers during pregnancy, her female offspring had fewer eggs, smaller ovaries and smaller litters of babies than those not exposed to the drugs.
Pain Killers and Pregnancy
Scientists tested the effects of two painkillers in pregnant rats – paracetamol and a prescription-only painkiller called indomethacin, which belongs to the same class of drugs as ibuprofen and aspirin.
Rats were given the two drugs (separately) over the course of several days – The effects of the drugs were seen within 1 to 4 days of the start of treatment. Scientists say that because the pace of fetal development in humans is slower than it is in rats, it is hard to say from this study how this would translate in human use, but even so I find the results alarming…

  • In addition to affecting a mother’s immediate offspring, the study showed that painkillers taken in pregnancy also affected the subsequent generation of rats.
  • The team found that the resulting females – the granddaughters of the mother given painkillers in pregnancy – also had reduced ovary size and altered reproductive function.
  • Boys where affected only at birth to have reduced sperm production but had recovered by late puberty.

Scientists say the results suggest that some painkillers may affect the development of the cells that give rise to eggs and sperm – called germ cells – while a fetus is in the womb.

This may be because the painkillers act on hormones called prostaglandins. These are known to regulate female reproduction and control ovulation, the menstrual cycle and the induction of labor.

Previous research in May 2015, from The University of Edinburgh Centre for reproductive health (again through animal studies) showed that paracetamol given in pregnancy for 7 days interrupted the production of testosterone by 45%.
Testosterone is essential for the development of male reproductive hormones, the key mechanism is thought to be that paracetamol reduced, or blocked the full expression of key steroidogenic enzymes.
Danish research, from 2010 found that prolonged use of Paracetamol (more than seven days) led to a higher risk of baby boys being born with undescended testis, which in itself can lead to fertility issues.
Earlier research showed that children whose mothers used paracetamol during pregnancy were at a slightly higher risk of receiving a diagnosis of hyperkinetic disorders like ADHD, using ADHD medications, or having ADHD-like behaviours at the age of 7. Higher risk was observed, the longer the mother had used paracetamol during pregnancy.
The cohort study involved 64,000 pregnant women from the Danish National Birth Cohort during 1996-2002.

stages-pregnancy 2

What have we learnt?

  • That being informed is important! Being aware of the risks allows you to make a choice.
  • Unfortunately these medicines have become a normal part of daily life:
  • Paracetamol painkillers are still the most common first-line treatment in pregnant women with pain or fever.
  • If a pregnant woman needs pain relief for more than a couple of days, continued medical treatment should only take place in consultation with a doctor.
  • Due to the risk of deformities, painkillers of the NSAID type (e.g. ibuprofen and diclofenac) should be used cautiously in the 1st and 2nd trimesters of pregnancy and must not be used in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy due to the risk of haemorrhage and circulatory disturbance in the child. 
  • The “official” advice is: That the general recommendation is to take as little medicine as possible during pregnancy.
  • To every extent possible, non-medical treatment should be used to ease mild and/or short-term pain during pregnancy.

Paracetamol, most commonly trades under the name of Panadol , which may be contained with a decongestant and used as cold and flu medication.
Paracetamol is the generic form but may also be labelled as

  • Acetaminophen
  • Tylenol
  • Anacin-3
  • Tempra
  • Datril and commonly in Europe as Efferalgan, or Doliprane


There are many safe and effective natural supplements that may be used to relieve minor aches and pains and fevers during pregnancy, So seek the advice of a qualified Naturopath to find out more. 


Any Questions?

Call ☏ 9339 1999

To book a free minute phone consultation with Jacky Dixon –
To talk about any queries or concerns you may have about Pregnancy, or Medication!

( Resource: adulthood )

Jacky Dixon
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