Expecting parents usually dream of having perfect, healthy baby boys that will grow strong and masculine. However, this dream may be crushed if the expecting mother takes pain medication during pregnancy, a recent study suggests.
Acetaminophen, the main active ingredient used in Tylenol as well as several popular pain medications approved for use by pregnant women, isn’t actually safe, at least for male fetuses. Research performed on rodents shows that this drug inhibits the production and release of testosterone, thus causing a number of unwanted side effects on boys.
It is common knowledge that testosterone is the essential “male hormone”, which is responsible for the development of males, their growth, fat distribution, bone and muscle mass and, as they become older, sperm production and sex drive. More than that, testosterone is also responsible for shaping men’s brain processes so that they think and act like males.
In effect, what this means is that the sons of mothers that take pain medications based on acetaminophen may actually be less masculine than others on an intellectual level. They may also face problems in their development and adult lives, due to the low levels of testosterone caused by the drug taken long ago by their pregnant mothers.
The problems may start much earlier than that, however, as studies performed on rodents also show that some of the fetuses that had been exposed to the drug were also born with testicular malformations.
But while low testosterone can certainly be treated through supplements and hormonal therapy, acetaminophen doesn’t seem to be particularly safe for the intellectual and behavioral development of children in general.
Previous studies published as recently as last year linked acetaminophen with various other development problems in newborns, both male and female. According to one research, the drug can also be linked to ADHD and early autism symptoms, as well as delayed language development.
The use of pain medication during pregnancy has been a controversial matter for some time. While a growing body of research seems to show that even the drugs deemed safest can affect the fetuses negatively, doctors seem to find such studies inconclusive.
On the other hand, one must always remember that pain, and more importantly fever, which is another instance when acetaminophen is used by pregnant women, are both very dangerous for the developing fetus and expecting mother. This leaves doctors with no other choice but to prescribe some type of drug to their expecting patients.
All in all, one must always be careful when taking or prescribing any drugs during pregnancy. Further research into the matter is also necessary in order to determine what is in fact safe for women to take during gestation.