Does Taking Ibuprofen Every Day Effect Your Sexual Health? Here's What We Know

It's safe to say that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen have always been in the spotlight. They're particularly effective in fighting inflammation by hindering your body's ability to produce prostaglandins, the natural chemicals involved in pain and fever. But they also come with a host of side effects like headaches, lightheadedness, nausea, indigestion, and more seriously — stomach ulcers.

Turns out, there's another side effect to the use of this painkiller that you could add to the list of things you might not know about ibuprofen – how it affects your sexual health. While you probably already know that ibuprofen use isn't recommended for pregnant women, a 2018 study published in Human Reproduction looked at how this painkiller can affect the fertility of unborn children, when consumed by their pregnant mothers. Within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, ibuprofen use was associated with hampering the formation of follicles involved in egg production in female babies. According to lead researcher, Dr. Séverine Mazaud-Guitto (via Eureka Alert), this could result in fertility issues that could impact the child's life when they are an adult. 

One of the more cited studies surrounding NSAID use and sexual problems comes from 2010 research published in The Journal of Urology. It unveiled that across a sample size of 80,966 men aged 45 to 69, of whom 47.4% said they were NSAID users, 29.3% reported having moderate or severe erectile dysfunction (ED). The theory is that the same fever and pain-relieving effect of NSAIDs like ibuprofen — reducing prostaglandins levels in your system — could be contributing to ED. 

The connection between prostaglandins levels and ED

Prostaglandins are lipids that perform a host of functions in your body like forming blood clots at a wound site, aiding blood flow, and uterine contractions during menstruation. 

Prostaglandins are also one of the chemicals involved in achieving an erection. In fact, synthetic forms of this chemical are used to treat ED because they can widen blood vessels and improve blood flow to the penis. Therefore, the science behind low levels of prostaglandins being co-related to ED isn't far-fetched. 

However, while the scientists behind the 2010 research on NSAIDs said they adjusted their findings for age, race/ethnicity, smoking status, body mass index, and diseases like diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, peripheral vascular disease, coronary artery disease, they also agreed that it's possible that they didn't weed out all possible underlying health conditions, one of which could have contributed toward sexual dysfunction in the subjects. Another study done in 2016 looked at a similar relationship between NSAID use and ED and found only a modest association, which the authors said could be attributed to whatever reason the subjects were taking NSAIDs in the first place. It is not uncommon for those over 50 years of age to have problems with sexual performance due to other health concerns. However, this isn't the only study that found a reason to be concerned about ibuprofen use and impaired sexual health. 

Ibuprofen use could cause compensated hypogonadism

Compensated hypogonadism — a deficiency in the male sex hormone testosterone — is a condition that affects aging men. ED, mood swings, and fatigue are symptoms of this condition. A 2018 study published in the journal PNAS found that taking 600 milligrams of ibuprofen twice a day for two weeks caused men who were aged 18 to 35 to develop compensated hypogonadism. While the results only indicated mild to moderate levels of the disorder, the concern was with the long-term use of ibuprofen and how this could possibly impair sexual function in men. 

As explained by one of the authors from the University of Copenhagen, David Møbjerg Kristensen (via The Guardian), "Our immediate concern is for the fertility of men who use these drugs for a long time. These compounds are good painkillers, but a certain amount of people in society use them without thinking of them as proper medicines." 

While more research is needed to establish a definite connection between impaired sexual health and ibuprofen use, studies of this nature, at the very least, make you reconsider taking ibuprofen every day. Even if sexual health isn't a concern, there are other alarming side effects related to prolonged use of this painkiller. That being said, if your healthcare provider has recommended its use for a particular health condition, it's best that you speak with them about your concerns and follow their advice on how best to navigate taking NSAIDs.