Study: Acetaminophen (Tylenol) Use in Pregnancy Linked to Behavioral Problems in Children

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Pregnancy/Being a Mom

pill pregnantMore than one in 10 American children under the age of 18 have been diagnosed with ADHD, a mental illness that may not even truly exist. But based on diagnoses factors, the rate of this behavioral condition has risen over the past few decades and continues to climb. A new study published in the JAMA Pediatrics suggests maternal use of acetaminophen, considered safe by conventional doctors, could be to blame.

Acetaminophen is the most commonly used drugs during pregnancy. That’s largely because it has been assumed as safe by the medical community for developing babies, safer at least than many alternatives. To that end, expectant mothers often take acetaminophen (or Tylenol) to treat headaches and pains, of which there can be many during pregnancy.

The researchers noted that previous studies have linked acetaminophen to hormone disruption, something that could impact healthy development in the womb. So they set out to see if mothers taking the over-the-counter drug were putting their babies in harm’s way.

The study involved 64,322 children and their mothers that were part of the Danish National Birth Cohort between 1996 and 2002. The women were required to report any use of acetaminophen during pregnancy and answer questions about their child’s behavior later in life.

More than half of the participating mothers used acetaminophen at some point during their pregnancy. Children born to these mothers were found to be more likely diagnosed with HKD or hyperkinetic disorders (psychiatric syndromes), and more likely to have ADHD behaviors and be medicated for the disorder. Also, the risks were multiplied when the mother used acetaminophen during multiple trimesters of her pregnancy.

Read: 5 Natural Pain Relievers

While the researchers were cautious to make any causation statements, saying more research is necessary, they did say the link is undeniable and suggest it could help explain the growing rate of ADHD diagnoses among children.

The study abstract concludes:

“Maternal acetaminophen use during pregnancy is associated with a higher risk for HKDs and ADHD-like behaviors in children. Because the exposure and outcome are frequent, these results are of public health relevance but further investigations are needed.”

According to Miriam Cooper, in an editorial accompanying the study, “Findings from this study should be interpreted cautiously and should not change practice.”

“However, they underline the importance of not taking a drug’s safety during pregnancy for granted, and they provide a platform from which to conduct further related analyses exploring a potential relationship between acetaminophen use and altered neurodevelopment.”

For pregnant women, various aches and pains can be common. Doctors frequently affirm to these women that acetaminophen is a safe treatment. But as this study shows, a little pain relief now could result in major future headaches.