Does ibuprofen use during the first trimester of pregnancy interfere with the development of the human fetal ovary?
In human fetuses, ibuprofen exposure is deleterious for ovarian germ cells.
In utero stages of ovarian development define the future reproductive capacity of a woman. In rodents, analgesics can impair the development of the fetal ovary leading to early onset of fertility failure. Ibuprofen, which is available over-the-counter, has been reported as a frequently consumed medication during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester when the ovarian germ cells undergo crucial steps of proliferation and differentiation.
Organotypic cultures of human ovaries obtained from 7 to 12 developmental week (DW) fetuses were exposed to ibuprofen at 1–100 μM for 2, 4 or 7 days. For each individual, a control culture (vehicle) was included and compared to its treated counterpart. A total of 185 individual samples were included.
Ovarian explants were analyzed by flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry and quantitative PCR. Endpoints focused on ovarian cell number, cell death, proliferation and germ cell complement. To analyze the possible range of exposure, ibuprofen was measured in the umbilical cord blood from the women exposed or not to ibuprofen prior to termination of pregnancy.
Human ovarian explants exposed to 10 and 100 μM ibuprofen showed reduced cell number, less proliferating cells, increased apoptosis and a dramatic loss of germ cell number, regardless of the gestational age of the fetus. Significant effects were observed after 7 days of exposure to 10 μM ibuprofen. At this concentration, apoptosis was observed as early as 2 days of treatment, along with a decrease in M2A-positive germ cell number. These deleterious effects of ibuprofen were not fully rescued after 5 days of drug withdrawal.
This study was performed in an experimental setting of human ovaries explants exposed to the drug in culture, which may not fully recapitulate the complexity of in vivo exposure and organ development. Inter-individual variability is also to be taken into account.
Whereas ibuprofen is currently only contra-indicated after 24 weeks of pregnancy, our results points to a deleterious effect of this drug on first trimester fetal ovaries ex vivo. These findings deserve to be considered in light of the present recommendations about ibuprofen consumption pregnancy, and reveal the urgent need for further investigations on the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie the effect of ibuprofen on fetal ovary development.