New Research Claims Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy Is Not Linked to ADHD or Autism Risk

April 29, 2024

Contradictory Results Challenge Previous Findings of Elevated Neurodevelopmental Risks in Children Exposed to Drug Prenatally

A recent study published in JAMA challenges prior research linking acetaminophen (Tylenol) use during pregnancy to increased risks of autism and ADHD in children. By analyzing data from over 2 million Swedish children followed for up to 26 years, the researchers found only a minimal increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders associated with maternal acetaminophen use. This risk disappeared in a sibling comparison analysis, suggesting that other factors, potentially genetic, might be responsible for the observed associations. The study, which adjusted for various maternal factors like age, smoking, and pre-existing neurodevelopmental disorders, reported a 5% increased risk of autism, 7% of ADHD, and 5% of intellectual disability among children exposed to acetaminophen in utero. Notably, the absolute risk remains relatively low, with 9% of children exposed to acetaminophen diagnosed with one of these conditions compared to 7.5% of unexposed children. Dr. Brian Lee, the study’s co-senior author, emphasized that pregnant women need not worry about using acetaminophen for pain or fever relief. However, he stressed the importance of consulting physicians before medication use during pregnancy. Experts, including Dr. Catherine Caponero from the Cleveland Clinic and J. Blake Turner from Columbia University, have expressed reassurance regarding acetaminophen’s safety during pregnancy, highlighting its established efficacy and the risks associated with untreated fevers. Additionally, according to Dr. Manish Arora, a professor of environmental medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai,  the study’s unique sibling analysis underscores the role of genetics in neurodevelopmental disorders, providing a valuable adjustment often absent in previous studies.

Original Article

Original Study Abstract

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