Midwives should be aware of the potential effects of paracetamol and other painkillers during pregnancy, as women should consult them on the possibility of a reduction in testosterone in unborn boys, a leading midwifery figure has said.
The RCM's head of education Carmel Lloyd said: 'If women do take medicines such as paracetamol when they are pregnant, they should use the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time. If the recommended dose doesn't control their symptoms or they are often in pain, they should seek more advice from their midwife.'
The comments came after a study carried out by researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that painkillers such as paracetamol could be linked to a reduction in the amount of testosterone produced in unborn children.
The study, published in Science Translational Medicine, examined the effect of paracetamol and other painkillers on the production of testosterone in pregnant mice. It found that there was a 45% decrease in testosterone production when the mice were given paracetamol. Low levels of testosterone in men have been linked to an increased risk of conditions such as cardiovascular disease.
Ms Lloyd added: 'Paracetamol is the preferred choice of medicine used to treat minor aches and pains in pregnancy. Most other medicines commonly used for pain relief such as ibuprofen are not recommended in pregnancy.'
Professor Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP agreed with Ms Lloyd's assessment of the research's results, saying: 'Pregnant women who have been taking paracetamol to ease discomfort – either as prescribed or self-medicated should not panic as a result of this research. But if they are concerned about taking the drug regularly, over a long period of time they should make a non-urgent appointment with their general practice, or visit their local pharmacist.'