Researchers found the outcome of acetaminophen use in pregnant women ‘worrisome’ according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics. An international group of researchers led by Dr. Jorn Olsen, at the University of Aarhus, in Denmark, found a strong correlation between acetaminophen (found in common painkillers like Tylenol) use among pregnant women and the rate of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnoses in their children. Women who used the pain reliever during pregnancy saw a 37% increased risk in an ADHD diagnosis for their child compared with moms who didn’t use the over the counter medication at all.
Written by James P. Nevin
“[The results] are worrisome because more than 50% of the women took acetaminophen; it’s an over the counter drug and they can freely buy, and use it at their discretion,” says Dr. Beate Ritz, one of the co-authors and chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “It’s considered relatively safe, and maybe it’s not.”
The 64,322 participants included mothers and children born in Denmark between 1996 and 2002 encompassing a diverse group of mothers from different social and environmental backgrounds. More than half of mothers reported using acetaminophen while pregnant. ADHD risk increased if acetaminophen was taken during more than one trimester, specifically later in the pregnancy. The study also evaluated hyperactivity on three different levels – from symptom reports by mothers or caregivers, hospital diagnoses and prescriptions to treat ADHD. Higher acetaminophen use among mothers was linked to higher rates of all three outcomes in their children. The medical community warns expectant mothers not to panic over one study, but to speak to their medical provider before making any decisions on acetaminophen use.
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