Paracetamol, also known as acetaminophen or APAP is a medication used to treat pain and fever. It is usually considered safe to be taken during pregnancy. But a recent study has created an air of suspicion around the common medicines. A new research by University of Copenhagen, Denmark suggests that if you’re pregnant, then you should keep your hands off paracetamol. This medication is linked to reduced sex drive and aggressive behaviour among male child born.
In an animal model, the use of paracetamol was found to harm the development of male behaviour, says a paper published in the journal reproduction. The researchers also revealed that the dosage administered to the mice was similar to the recommended dosage to a pregnant woman. The results produced are restricted to mice and cannot be transferred directly to humans, cautioned the researchers.
The results however signify that it would be unsafe to undertake the similar trials on humans, explained David Mobjerg Kristensen, who was a part of the team in University of Copenhagen.
"In a trial, mice exposed to paracetamol at the foetal stage were simply unable to copulate in the same way as our control animals. Male programming had not been properly established during their foetal development and this could be seen long afterwards in their adult life. It is very worrying," Mobjerg Kristensen, now associated with the Institut de Recherche en Sante, Environnement et Travail (IRSET) in France, said.
Previous studies concluded that paracetamol can hinder the development of the male sex hormone testosterone in the male child, thus increasing the chances of malformation of the testicles in the unborn. The reduced level of testosterone in the foetal stage can also be suggestive of behaviour in adult males.
Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone that helps develop the male body and male programming of the brain. The masculine behaviour in mice observed by the researchers involved aggressiveness towards other male mice, ability to copulate and the need for territorial marking.
"We have demonstrated that a reduced level of testosterone means that male characteristics do not develop as they should. This also affects sex drive," Mobjerg Kristensen said.
But even if paracetamol is harmful, that does not mean it should never be taken, even when pregnant, the researchers said.
"I personally think that people should think carefully before taking medicine. These days it has become so common to take paracetamol that we forget it is a medicine and all medicine has side effects. If you are ill, you should naturally take the medicine you need. After all, having a sick mother is more harmful for the foetus," Mobjerg Kristensen noted.
According to Britain's National Health Service (NHS), "paracetamol is usually safe to take" during pregnancy.
Kristensen emphasised that pregnant women should continue to follow the guidelines given by their country's health authorities and recommends people to contact their GP if in doubt about the use of paracetamol.
(With IANS Inputs)