From time immemorial, people have been accustomed to treating health issues with local herbs or over-the-counter medications without seeking a doctor’s prescription first. The most popular being painkillers. How convenient is it to pop a pill just to relieve yourself of the splitting headache or back pain right? While these seem to be very effective in curing minor health issues therefore causing people to be more reliant on them, they certainly come with their own side effects, especially for women.
A Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Dr Abosede Lewu, has urged young women to stop abuse or consistent use of Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), also known as painkillers to prevent infertility. The ‘Keep All Mothers Alive (KAMA)’ convener mentioned that the consistent use of NSAIDs had negative effects on women’s menstrual cycle and ovulation.
She described NSAIDs or painkillers, as members of a drug class that reduces pain, decreases fever, prevents blood clots and in higher doses, decreases inflammation.
“Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) have also been implicated in infertility. The consistent use or abuse of these drugs prevent ovulation and lower progesterone levels in young women.
“It prevents follicle from breaking to release egg, and when egg is not released, there is nothing to fertilise by the sperm.
“Painkillers work mostly by blocking a particular pathway. This pathway is needed to achieve ovulation if blocked, a ripe follicle may not ovulate leading to Luteinised Unruptured Follicle (LUF) or other mild dysfunction,’’ she said.
Lewu said consistent use of NSAIDs or painkillers should be discouraged among women trying to get pregnant.
She urged young women to consult a physician for proper prescription, timing and restrictions before using painkillers.
“For those using painkillers for few days for menstrual pain, you have already ovulated before the period, so except your cycle is very short. NSAIDs should not affect your menses, ovulation and fertility.
“For those using NSAIDs consistently for other medical conditions, they are more at risk treating underlying cause. They need to find an alternative drug or therapy.
“There are other groups of analgesics that can be used in place of NSAIDs. If NSAID are to be used, it should be prescribed, timed and restricted. So, stop NSAIDs abuse,” she warned.
The gynaecologist also urged women to visit a doctor when they experienced ovulation or menstrual disorders and fertility issues, saying that there are other causes aside painkillers.
“Pls note, if you have ovulation or menstrual disorders and fertility issues, you cannot assume it is only NSAIDs, consult a specialist,’’ she advised.
Do Painkillers Really Cause Infertility In Women?
Recent studies have found that the use of long term non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), commonly known as over-the-counter pain medications, have been known to cause infertility in women.
Almost all of the NSAIDs present in the market are known to inhibit the production of a certain enzyme in the female body that is solely responsible for ovulation, implantation and placentation.
Ibuprofen and diphenhydramine are some of the common painkillers that are found in almost every medicine cabinet. These medications are used to treat everything from a small back pain to a fever.
However, long term usage of these medications is known to mess with the ovulation cycle and the reproductive hormones in women and becomes the main cause of ovulation dysfunction.
How it Happens? Ibuprofen and diphenhydramine contain ingredients that are great at relieving pain. However, they suppress the production of prostaglandins, the hormones that regulate the ovulation cycle in women. These medications also cause certain hormone dysfunction if coupled with other bad lifestyle habits like smoking and excessive drinking. Long term use of these medications can cause permanent infertility, which may turn out to be untreatable.
Do Painkillers Affect Pregnancy? Many women face a number of issues during their pregnancy, probably during the first time. You need to remember that taking painkillers without a prescription can have some disastrous effects on the foetus.
If you are going through pain during your pregnancy period, your doctor will be able to advise the best possible way to manage your pain. After all, medications are not always the answer to everything, especially during pregnancy.
Side Effects Of Taking Pain Killers During Pregnancy Pregnancy is indeed a painful period where your body is going through a sea of changes. Aches and pains here and there are bound to happen. However, doctors refrain from prescribing pain medications during pregnancy as these medications are found to have a negative effect on the baby. Though medications like paracetamol are the first line of defence against fever or pain during pregnancy, a lot of studies have found that these medications interfere in the neurological development of the foetus in the womb during the early stages.
If the developing foetus is exposed to high levels of painkillers and other over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like acetaminophen, it increases the offspring’s chances of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder during early childhood.
Furthermore, the anti-inflammatory drugs used in the treatment of regular symptoms during pregnancy may predispose to oxidative stress in the foetus. This has a huge effect on the neurological brain development of the baby, which means that these infants have more chances of developing autism later in life.
Also, findings from recent studies suggest that the risk of giving birth to babies with birth defects increase by 2-3% if common painkillers and other anti-inflammatory drugs were consumed commonly during pregnancy. Certain medications prescribed for issues such as anxiety, seizures, depression etc., which are quite common in pregnant women can lead to birth defects in unborn babies. The chemicals released by these drugs can enter the infant’s bloodstream through the placenta.
It can damage the developing system of the foetus, majorly the central nervous system, giving rise to a number of brain-related birth defects. Furthermore, the drugs can also constrict the blood vessels around the placenta and restrict the movement of nutrients from the mother to the baby. This will eventually result in underweight and an underdeveloped baby. The constriction of the blood vessels can also cause premature contraptions and preterm delivery as well.
It is highly advised to consult a doctor instead of relying on self-medication to solve even what seems to be a minor health issue. Popping the pill may be very convenient but it would just keep you away from getting to the root cause of the health problem. If you are on regular medications, you may have to follow your doctor’s advice regarding the correct dosage and get the updated prescription periodically.
If you are planning to conceive, you may have to communicate it with your doctor, who may recommend some alternate and safe medications to manage your pain. Though not all cases of infertility are irreversible, there may be serious consequences if you are taking over-the-counter painkillers for a long time without a doctor’s prescription.
On A Final Note… If you have been trying to get pregnant with no results, it may be wise to check your medicine cabinet for the above-mentioned medications. Also, you need to remember that frequent consumption of over-the-counter medications may have a large effect on your fertility.
However, there are other factors to consider. It is advisable to talk with your doctor at length regarding the difficulties you may face while conceiving.