Acetaminophen Use in Pregnancy May Increase the Risk of Autism and ADHD

June 07, 2021

Children Prenatally Exposed to Drug 19% More Likely to Develop ASD

A recent meta-analysis involving over 73,000 mother-child pairs from six European population centers has discovered that children exposed to acetaminophen in the womb were 19% more likely to end up with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 21% more likely to exhibit symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Acetaminophen is called paracetamol in other countries and is known in the United States by the brand name Tylenol. Found in more than 600 different medications, both prescription based and over-the-counter, acetaminophen is one of the most commonly used analgesics on the market and is used to relieve pain and reduce fevers. Associations between prenatal acetaminophen exposure and ASD and ADHD symptoms were consistently positive for both boys and girls. However, boys had slightly stronger odds of developing symptoms of either or both disorders. Between 46% and 56% of pregnant women in developed countries use acetaminophen. The study’s authors report that the drug is recognized as the safest analgesic for children and pregnant women. Although research from earlier this spring linked early acetaminophen exposure to damage to the endocannabinoid system which could lead to ASD.  The results of this study could change how some doctors advise treating pain and fever during pregnancy. The authors conclude that acetaminophen use should not be suppressed in pregnant women or children, but it should be used only when necessary.

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