Women who want to have a baby boy, have been cautioned that advice suggesting taking an aspirin before conception can influence the sex of a baby, is misleading.
On Monday 4 July 2016 The Daily Mail reported on a study by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in the US with the headline: ‘Women who take aspirin before sex are more likely to give birth to a baby boy’.
The study in question, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation in 2015, found that women who took an aspirin before conception were nearly a third more likely to have a healthy baby boy, however it looked specifically at women with a history of recurrent miscarriages.
Dr Helen Webberley, GP for www.oxfordonlinepharmacy.co.uk told The Huffington Post UK that further research needs to be undertaken before conclusions can be made.
“This is an incidental finding amongst a small sub group of women in a larger trial looking at the effects of aspirin on early pregnancy,” she said.
“The idea that inflammation can negatively affect the outcome of male pregnancies is an interesting one, but more research needs to be done before we get too excited.”
Previous research has suggested that in some cases of recurrent miscarriage, the immune system treats the developing embryo as a foreign body, and attacks it with immune cells, causing increased inflammation in the womb.
Aspirin is used to treat inflammation, so the theory goes that taking aspirin could increase the chance of an embryo surviving.
The study by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute, aimed to investigate whether male embryos have greater vulnerability than female embryos to inflammation of the womb.
And the results supported this: 31% of the women given aspirin before falling pregnant had a boy, compared to 23% given a placebo.
However, a spokesperson from The Miscarriage Association told HuffPost UK that this shouldn’t be interpreted as proof that aspirin can help prevent miscarriages.
The Miscarriage Association directed us to a previous comment from Professor Arri Coomarasamy, consultant gynaecologist and sub-specialist in reproductive medicine and surgery at Birmingham Women’s Hospital.
He said the question of how to prevent miscarriage was a “tough one to answer”.
“Some early studies sometimes suggest a benefit with this or that medicine, but when we eventually study that medicine carefully, we may find that it doesn’t work, or even worse, it is actually harmful,” he said.
Coomarasamy cites aspirin as an example of this: “We use it for women with sticky blood conditions such as antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), and it works to reduce miscarriage in those women.
“However, even when there is no evidence of a ‘sticky blood’ condition, many clinicians have recommended it and women have diligently taken aspirin in the hope that it will reduce the risk of miscarriage.
“But when this question was properly researched, it was clear that there was no major difference between the results for those taking aspirin and those taking the dummy tablets. In fact, one study showed that there were slightly more miscarriages amongst the women who took the aspirin.
“If there is no evidence of a sticky blood condition, women are well advised to keep a mile away from aspirin, unless their doctor prescribes it to them.”
Coomarasamy called for further research to help guide treatment for women with miscarriage.