Association Between Male Use of Pain Medication and Fecundability

Am J Epidemiol. 2020 Nov 2;189(11):1348-1359. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwaa096.


Administration of pain relievers has been associated with both lower and higher risks of adverse reproductive outcomes in animals. In the sole investigation of male pain-reliever use and human fertility carried out to date, Smarr et al. (Hum Reprod. 2016;31(9):2119-2127) found a 35% reduction in fecundability among males with urinary acetaminophen concentrations in the highest quartile (>73.5 ng/mL) versus the lowest (<5.4 ng/mL). We analyzed data from 1,956 males participating in Pregnancy Study Online, a preconception cohort study of North American couples enrolled between 2013 and 2019. Males and females completed baseline questionnaires on sociodemographic characteristics, lifestyle, medication use, and medical history; females completed bimonthly follow-up questionnaires for up to 12 months. We categorized pain medications by active ingredient (ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen, aspirin) and cumulative monthly dose. We used proportional probabilities models to calculate fecundability ratios and 95% confidence intervals, adjusting for potential confounders. In the 4 weeks before baseline, 51.7% of males used pain medications. Adjusted fecundability ratios were 1.02 for ibuprofen (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.91, 1.13), 0.89 for acetaminophen (95% CI: 0.77, 1.03), 1.07 for naproxen (95% CI: 0.85, 1.35), and 1.05 for aspirin (95% CI: 0.81, 1.35), as compared with nonuse of each medication. In this study, male use of pain medications at low doses was not notably associated with fecundability.

Keywords: analgesics; fecundability; male factors; pain relievers; pain-relieving medications; preconception cohorts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / adverse effects
  • Adult
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects*
  • Aspirin / adverse effects
  • Birth Rate*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Fertility / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Ibuprofen / adverse effects
  • Infertility, Male / chemically induced
  • Infertility, Male / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Naproxen / adverse effects
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Acetaminophen
  • Naproxen
  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen