Ibuprofen May Be Linked to Lowered Fertility Rates

ibuprofen. fertility
Ibuprofen has become a common household drug, but new studies show it might just be affecting the fertility of unborn children. Francis Dean/Corbis /Getty Images

Are you in your childbearing years, thinking you'll have children and maybe grandchildren someday? Also, did you recently take something for a headache or your twisted ankle? Well, listen up because the two might be more related than you might think.

A study published Feb. 2, 2018 in the journal Human Reproduction finds that taking the anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen in the first three months of a pregnancy might seriously impair the fertility of a woman's yet-unborn daughter.


"Baby girls are born with a finite number of follicles in their ovaries and this defines their future reproductive capacity as adults," said lead author Dr. Séverine Mazaud-Guittot, a researcher at INSERM in Rennes, France, in a 2018 press release. "A poorly stocked initial reserve will result in a shortened reproductive life span, early menopause or infertility — all events that occur decades later in life."

The researchers found that exposure to ibuprofen halved the number ovarian germ cells found in the fetal tissue of an unborn baby girl, compared to that of a fetus that had not been exposed to the drug.

"We found there were fewer cells growing and dividing, more cells dying and a dramatic loss of germ cell numbers, regardless of the gestational age of the foetus," Mazaud-Guittot said. "There were significant effects after seven days of exposure to 10 μM [micromolars] of ibuprofen, and we saw cell death as early as after two days of treatment. Five days after withdrawing ibuprofen, these harmful effects of ibuprofen were not fully reversed."


And On the Male Side of Things...

But it's not just women who need to watch their ibuprofen intake, for their future progeny's sake. Another study published Dec.1, 2017, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that the use of the drug by young men can damage their endocrine system, resulting in a condition called compensated hypogonadism, which is most often diagnosed in elderly men, and is commonly associated with infertility. The condition occurs when men have elevated levels of luteinizing hormone, the hormone that triggers the production of testosterone, which indicates the brain is telling the testes to make more testosterone because there's not enough.

In the small group of 31 men aged 18-35 involved in the study, half were given 600 mg of ibuprofen each day for 44 days, while the other group received a placebo. After just a couple of weeks, the luteinizing hormone levels in the men taking the ibuprofen had risen to the high level of men in their 70s, whose testosterone levels are usually much lower. The rise in luteinizing hormone triggers a slowing in the production of testosterone.


So, how you treat that headache, fever or sports injury today might just be affecting the fertility of your unborn children. And possibly your own! Take analgesics responsibly, kids.