Pain Reliever Use in Pregnancy Linked to Autism Risk
For years, acetaminophen was considered “generally safe” to relieve occasional headaches or muscle soreness during pregnancy. However, a recent study showed a link between the drug and an increased risk for autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children whose mothers took it while pregnant.
In 2010, a study conducted by the CDC showed no increased risk for birth defects with acetaminophen use, but some research indicates the drug may interfere with fetal brain development. This recent study involved more than 2,600 expectant mothers who were asked about their acetaminophen use at 12 and 32 weeks of pregnancy. Then, their children’s neuropsychological development was assessed at 1 year and/or 5 years of age. By the age of 5, children exposed to acetaminophen prenatally were more likely to have symptoms of ADHD, and boys were more likely to have autism.
More research is needed. Women who are pregnant should talk to their health care provider about the risks and benefits before taking any prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medication or dietary supplement.
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