Is Acetaminophen Safe During Pregnancy?

We wanted to make sure you did not miss this important health update.
We know most, if not all, pregnant women have been told to only take
acetaminophen (Tylenol) as it has been seen as the safest pain
reliever during pregnancy.

However, earlier this week, news surfaced that acetaminophen (Tylenol)
usage during pregnancy has been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
in their children. The articles we read were very clear that
no direct cause and effect has yet been determined, but there is
some as yet to be determined association.

One of the first articles we saw was from USA Today.
(the actual study was published early this week in JAMA Pediatrics).

Below is an excerpt from the USA Today article:

The study is a reminder that “anything we do in
pregnancy we should not do lightly,” says one study author,
Beate Ritz, an epidemiologist at the University of California-Los Angeles.

The researchers looked for a link between acetaminophen and ADHD
because they believe the medication might work as a hormone disruptor
capable of affecting fetal brain development, Ritz says.

The children were tracked in 3 different ways:

  1. through questionnaires on development parents completed when their child was 7 years old;
  2. through a diagnoses of “hyperkineticdisorder”; and
  3. through prescriptions for ADHD medicationssuch as Ritalin.

The study found that children whose mothers took acetaminophen were:

•13% more likely to show ADHD-like behaviors,
such as hyperactivity and conduct problems.

•37% more likely to be diagnosed with hyperkinetic
disorder, which is the equivalent of “high end” ADHD, Ritz says.

•29% more likely to get ADHD medications.

The associations held up even when researchers
considered mothers’ mental health histories and
additional factors – including fevers, infections
and inflammation — that might have led women to take
acetaminophen in the first place. The associations
grew stronger the more weeks mothers reported taking
acetaminophen, Ritz says.

The study “should be interpreted cautiously and
should not change practice,” says an accompanying
editorial written by psychiatric researcher Miriam
Cooper and colleagues at Cardiff University in the
United Kingdom. But the findings “underline the
importance of not taking a drug’s safety during
pregnancy for granted,” they wrote.

It’s important that worried pregnant women not use
ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory
drugs (NSAIDS) as substitutes for acetaminophen.
NSAIDS can disrupt fetal development and cause other problems.

Pregnant women with a fever should still take
acetaminophen to reduce it…because fevers might
affect fetal development. But there’s good reason to be
conservative about using it for aches and pains when a
warm bath, a massage or some stretching might provide relief…
When women find themselves using acetaminophen repeatedly…
they should consult their obstetricians.

Have you, or a woman you know, taken acetaminophen during pregnancy?

Have you noticed a difference in the children?

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PS Gratitude to Tara Halle for the featured image!

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