Today it is typically understood that when a woman is pregnant they should not take an NSAID such as Advil for pain because it has been found to increase the risks of miscarriage and malformations throughout pregnancy. Instead women are typically instructed to take acetaminophen such as Tylenol instead, but sparingly. A recent study found Tylenol use alters sex hormones and may cause birth defects. This study is similar to one a few weeks ago we reported on which showed testosterone levels in men were altered when taking ibuprofen.
The researchers speculated that they might find liver dysfunction with large doses of acetaminophen, “because that is normal toxicity,” but surprisingly they found that acetaminophen was associated with changes in certain hormonal metabolites. When hormones are broken up, what’s left is called a hormonal metabolite, these are measured in urine to determine hormonal levels. For example, the effect of taking acetaminophen on pregnanediol, a metabolite of progesterone, was roughly equivalent to the effect of 35 years of aging, or the normal decrease in levels seen in menopause. However, the effect only lasts 2 days and three days after the patient took the acetaminophen they would be back to their chronological age.
If you were to take one Tylenol it would likely have only a small effect on your body over the long term. But can you see how taking a daily Tylenol might result in a huge negative affect on your health? If your progesterone levels decreased to the level seen during menopause for months, could that trigger early menopause? The authors hint that a depletion of sex hormones during pregnancy could be linked to an increased risk of male urogenital malformation at birth. This could include things such as an absent kidney, the absence of abdominal muscles, or epispadias.
This is not definitive evidence, not yet anyway. If further evidence confirms this I expect the obstetrician profession to change their guidelines to include not permitting Tylenol use during pregnancy just as they now not permit NSAID use.
You might ask, what does a pregnant woman do who has neck pain, back pain or headaches during pregnancy. The answer is simple, see a chiropractor. There is ample evidence that chiropractic care is safe and effective way to manage pain during pregnancy. We have taking care of a multitude of pregnant women over the last 50 years, all successfully. We have even received referrals from obstetricians who value what we add to their patients care during pregnancy.