Acetaminophen And ADHD: New Study Suggests Taking The Drug During Pregnancy Can Increase ADHD In Kids [Video]

Pregnant women have very few options when it comes to pain and fever relief, and now a new study indicates that women who take acetaminophen are more likely to give birth to a child that suffers from ADHD.

According to researchers, children exposed to acetaminophen in the womb are at a higher risk of developing behavior and/or emotional disorders such as ADHD. The results of the new study are particularly disturbing when you consider the rise in ADHD cases in the U.S. and around the world, and the fact that over half of pregnant women in Europe and the U.S. report taking acetaminophen while gestating, reports CNN.

Known outside the U.S. as paracetamol, acetaminophen is an incredibly common ingredient in literally hundreds of the most commonly-used medications in the world. Acetaminophen is used in both prescription and over-the-counter painkillers and fever reducers; it can also be commonly found in everything from cold and allergy medication to sleep aids. Until the recent ADHD and acetaminophen study, acetaminophen had been thought to be one of the safest medications for pregnant women and their unborn children.

The recent study associating acetaminophen and ADHD and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, could change the way that pregnant women and their doctors look at the use of acetaminophen during pregnancy.

According to Evie Stergiakouli, the lead author of the acetaminophen and ADHD study, while acetaminophen is “safe” for use by pregnant women, it should only be used when absolutely necessary and when the benefits to the gestating woman outweigh the risks.

“Acetaminophen is considered safe to use during pregnancy.”

According to the FDA, associations between the use of acetaminophen during pregnancy and ADHD development in children have been brought to the administration’s attention before, however, according to the FDA, none of the prior research studies regarding acetaminophen and ADHD were expansive enough in scope to aid the administration in “drawing reliable conclusions” regarding the link.

In this recent acetaminophen ADHD association study, the research team utilized information from an ongoing U.K. study that has been intensively investigating the health of over 14,000 families.

Based on the information at hand, some striking discoveries were made.

“More than half the mothers (4,415 women or 53%) reported using acetaminophen at 18 weeks of pregnancy, while fewer than half (3,381 women or 42%) reported using it at 32 weeks. Post-natally, a total of 6,916 mothers (89%) and 3,454 partners (84%) used acetaminophen.”

The acetaminophen ADHD study researchers also carefully considered a plethora of additional factors that could potentially impact future behavior problems of a fetus in utero after its birth. Taking all variables into consideration, the team conducting the acetaminophen ADHD study discovered that if a pregnant woman used acetaminophen at 18 weeks gestation, her future child was at an increased risk of developing ADHD later in life.

Alternatively, pregnant women who utilized acetaminophen at 32 weeks gestation had a higher risk of giving birth to child who would develop ADHD and/or emotional problems.

Significantly, researchers noted that only five percent of kids born (regardless of their mother’s acetaminophen use during pregnancy) ended up developing ADHD or other emotional or behavioral problems by their seventh birthday.

A spokesperson for McNeil Consumer Healthcare, which produces the highly popular acetaminophen product Tylenol, was quick to speak out on the subject. Marc Boston told the public that, according to the researchers, “further studies are required” to fully understand the link between acetaminophen use in pregnancy and ADHD in children.

“It is important to note there are no studies demonstrating a causal link between acetaminophen use during pregnancy and adverse effects on child development. Behavioral disorders are multifactorial and very difficult to associate with a singular cause. The brain does not stop developing until at least 15 months of age, which leaves room for children to be exposed to a number of factors that could potentially lead to behavioral issues.”

In the United States roughly 5 million children from four to 17 are currently living with ADHD.

“This is actually the fourth major study to find acetaminophen use during pregnancy associated with neuro-development of the child.”

However, despite the ADHD epidemic that has swept the western world in recent decades, healthcare professionals are encouraging pregnant women to follow the advice of their healthcare professionals rather than suffer from unnecessary pain during pregnancy.

It is and always has been advisable that pregnant women attempt to handle their pain with non-medicinal methods, such as massage or heating pads, before turning to drugs. Even “safe” drugs, like acetaminophen, which this recent study indicates could contribute to the development of ADHD.

[Image via Niloo/Shutterstock]