Autism epidemic anyone?
Women who take acetaminophen during pregnancy are more likely to have a hyperactive child, according to a new study. Prenatal exposure to the medication was associated with a higher risk of having children who exhibit emotional or behavioral symptoms, the researchers said.
Acetaminophen, also known as paracetamol, relieves pain and fever and is the active ingredient in Tylenol and hundreds of over-the-counter and prescription medicines, says the Food and Drug Administration website. More than half of all pregnant women in the United States and Europe use acetaminophen, which is also found in medicines for allergies, colds, flu and sleeplessness, according to the authors of the study published in JAMA Pediatrics.
On its website, the FDA says it has reviewed previous studies exploring prenatal use of acetaminophen and the risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children. But “potential limitations” in the design of these research studies prevent the FDA from “drawing reliable conclusions.”
To learn more about acetaminophen and pregnancy, Stergiakouli and her colleagues used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, an ongoing study from the University of Bristol in the UK charting the health of 14,500 families.
Stergiakouli and her colleagues discovered that 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.
Importantly, just 5% of children displayed any behavioral problems by age 7.
The researchers then looked at other prenatal factors that might contribute to attention issues in a child, including smoking, alcohol use, socioeconomics and genetics. Factoring these into their analysis, the researchers discovered that a mother using acetaminophen at 18 weeks of pregnancy was associated with a greater chance of her child becoming hyperactive or developing conduct problems. At 32 weeks into pregnancy, a mother’s use of acetaminophen was linked to higher odds of her child having emotional symptoms, conduct problems and hyperactivity symptoms.