A recently published study in the Annals of Internal Medicine indicates heightened risks of birth defects in babies due to paternal intake of metformin before conception. Metformin is one of the most common anti-diabetic medications.
The study concludes that around 5.2% of babies were born with birth defects due to paternal exposure to metformin. There was a heightened incidence of genital birth defects in newborn boys.
These breakthrough studies disarm the misconception that only the mother’s health and lifestyle are responsible for optimal growth and development. A father’s lifestyle is an equally decisive factor in the equation.
Additional studies indicate that consumption or smoking of cannabis also affects the expression of certain genes in the sperm cells, leading to risks of birth defects. So, researchers are currently recommending male partners abstain from drugs for up to 11 weeks when trying for a baby with their partner.
The published report in the Annals of Internal Medicine involves data from over a million births in Denmark between 1997 to 2016. The researcher’s main emphasis was to compare the impacts of paternal exposure to anti-diabetic medications on the health of the developing fetus.
Over 1.1 million births were recorded in the study, out of which 3.3% of babies were born with major birth defects. However, the rates increased when metformin was introduced for the assessment as a marker. Besides metformin, the researchers also analyzed the impacts of insulin and sulfonylurea. The study didn’t record the babies whose both parents were on diabetes medication before conception.
With their alarming conclusion from the study, Maarten Wensink, the study’s co-author, highlighted that male diabetes patients who want to switch to metformin but are trying for a baby should consult their doctor.
Wensink further emphasized that diabetic would-be fathers need to prioritize their diet and exercise regimes as an intervention for diabetes management. It’s time that the priority is put on the paternal health, too and not just the mother.
Further highlighting the results, Germain Buck Louis, a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist, said that metformin alters the testosterone levels in the blood. This could cause antiandrogenic activities, leading to poor sperm quality and birth defects in newborn babies.
Channa Jayasena, the head of andrology at Imperial College London, expressed her interest in the subject but didn’t agree that diabetic males shouldn’t take metformin as part of their diabetes management routine. According to Jayasena, further studies are needed to draw a more conclusive result.
The authors have highlighted a few limitations to the study. The primary one was that the data is only based on the patients who filled their metformin prescriptions. There are no reports or subjective understanding about the dosage or the frequency of the medication.
Authors also recorded that the fathers recorded to take metformin were older and belonged to a lower socioeconomic status.