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What you need to know about news headlines claiming ibuprofen use during early pregnancy impacts fertility of children

Joy Victory is deputy managing editor of She tweets at @thejoyvictory.

It’s quite a presumptuous leap to translate this study, “Ibuprofen is deleterious for the development of first trimester human fetal ovary ex vivo,” into this headline from the U.S. edition of The Guardian, “Ibuprofen taken in early pregnancy could affect daughter’s fertility – study.”

No. This headline–and other headlines like it–are fear-mongering. The research, based on studying cells and fetal tissue, is too preliminary to make that kind of statement.

The news media (so far, mostly limited to UK outlets) likely framed the study this way because of a news release issued by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. It, too, irresponsibly proclaimed “Ibuprofen in the first three months of pregnancy may harm future fertility of baby girls.”

However, the news release did wisely include commentary from an independent source, and we wish this sentiment was echoed more strongly in all the news coverage of this study:

“…[At] this stage it is not possible to say whether the reduced numbers of follicles in tissue samples from baby girls might translate into reduced fertility 30 years later. At present this is speculation and requires long-term follow-up studies of daughters of women who took ibuprofen while in their first three months of pregnancy.”

what you need to know: ibuprofen during early pregnancy

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