Acetaminophen has been the pain-reliever of choice during pregnancy for many years. Other over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin and ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) may cause a vessel in the baby’s heart to close prematurely, leading to problems such as pulmonary hypertension and may prolong labor. Acetaminophen has been considered relatively safe. However, a new study links the use of this over-the-counter medication with a higher risk of ADHD and ADHD-like behaviors.
The study was completed in Denmark and published in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers looked at the medical data for 64,000 children. Specifically, they looked for use of acetaminophen during pregnancy, how many children were diagnosed with ADHD, how many received a prescription for medication for ADHD and surveys completed by parents on childhood behaviors.
The results of the study include:
About one-half of all the mothers in the study took acetaminophen at some time during their pregnancy.
Using acetaminophen during pregnancy increased the risk of developing ADHD, being prescribed medication for ADHD and exhibiting ADHD-like symptoms. The incident rate of children not exposed to acetaminophen during pregnancy was 2.5 percent. This increased to 3.4 percent for those exposed to the medication.
Children whose mothers took acetaminophen during pregnancy were 13 percent more likely to exhibit ADHD-like behaviors and 37 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.
Taking acetaminophen for longer periods of time increased the risks even further - women who reported taking the medication for 20 weeks or more had a 50 percent increased risk for their child receiving ADHD medications.
Using acetaminophen during the second and third trimesters also increased the risk, by up to 63 percent. Use during the third trimester only increased the risk by 28 percent.
What You Need to Know
Doctors are probably not ready to to suggest you stop taking acetaminophen if you are pregnant based on one single study. Additional research is needed to see if these results are duplicated. An editorial that accompanied the study results states, “
There are times when acetaminophen would be suggested during pregnancy, such as if you have a fever. Untreated fevers during pregnancy have been linked to lower IQ scores in children.
While this is a single study, it is reason enough to be cautious during pregnancy. Acetaminophen is a drug and can potentially cause side-effects and other problems. Non-drug pain remedies should be tried before resorting to any medications, including acetaminophen. It is important to talk with your doctor before taking any medication during pregnancy so you can weigh the benefits against the risks. It isn’t enough to assume that acetaminophen, or any other medications, are safe.
At the same time, you don’t want to leave a fever untreated or suffer endlessly. If non-drug remedies don’t help, talk to your doctor about your choices.
Published On: March 05, 2014