Acetaminophen use during pregnancy was linked to behavioral problems in children. Research conducted by JAMA Pediatrics suggests the common analgesic may increase the risk of behavioral issues, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, in children.
The research was conducted over a period of six years. The study began with 64,000 expectant mothers and continued to include their babies, who were monitored throughout early childhood. The study revealed that acetaminophen use during pregnancy increased the likelihood of numerous behavioral issues in children.
Expectant mothers who used the analgesic were 13 percent more likely to have children who have difficulty focusing and controlling their temper. The research suggests that in 50 percent of those children, the symptoms are severe enough to require medication.
The scientists discovered that the risk was increased when expectant mothers used acetaminophen repeatedly or for longer periods of time.
Dr. Beate Ritz, with the University of California, interpreted the data. She said the results were surprising, as acetaminophen is considered “a safe medication” for expectant mothers:
“It did surprise us to see these effects… This might be a safe drug during many life periods… But pregnancy is a special period, and we need to be especially careful about what we take during this time.”
Kat Langley, who co-authored the publication, said the results are “interesting but preliminary.” She explained that more research is required to “establish a casual link.”
Dr. Jeff Chapa, with the Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said acetaminophen is commonly prescribed during pregnancy. Chapa said the analgesic is an effective treatment for numerous symptoms, including fever and pain. As reported by Yahoo News, the symptoms are often related to viruses and infections, which can be a greater risk to an unborn child.
Forbes explains how acetaminophen affects unborn children. The common medication has been proven to reach the fetus through the placenta. Research suggests acetaminophen may disrupt the natural hormone balance, which can lead to numerous issues:
“… acetaminophen may interrupt brain development by interfering with maternal hormones or via neurotoxicity such as the induction of oxidative stress that can cause neuronal death.”
Although the research has proven a strong correlation, it has not proven that Acetaminophen use during pregnancy causes ADHD in children. Behavioral issues have been linked to numerous environmental and genetic influences.
Until causation is proven, doctors will likely continue prescribing acetaminophen during pregnancy. Expectant mothers who are concerned about specific medications are urged to consult their obstetrician.