Pregnant women who take ibuprofen could harm the fertility of their unborn baby girls, a study has warned.

Taking the tablets for just two to seven days within the first three months could lead to a short period of fertility, early menopause or infertility in their girls.

And even if women stop taking the painkiller, the damage is irreversible.

The study suggested the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug taken in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy may reduce the store of eggs in the ovaries of their daughters.

The study was the first evidence in human ovarian tissue that ibuprofen exposure during the crucial first part of foetal development resulted in a “dramatic loss” of the germ cells.

These go into making the follicles from which female eggs develop and either died or failed to grow and multiply at the usual rate following exposure in the womb.

Scientists said the findings raised concerns.

Lead author Dr Séverine Mazaud-Guittot at INSERM in Rennes, who was assisted by researchers at Edinburgh University, said: “Baby girls are born with a finite number of follicles in their ovaries and this defines their future reproductive capacity as adults. A poorly stocked reserve will result in a shortened reproductive life span, early menopause or infertility.”

Three in 10 women take ibuprofen in the first three months of pregnancy.