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Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy Poses No Risk of Autism, ADHD in Kids
  • Posted April 9, 2024

Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy Poses No Risk of Autism, ADHD in Kids

There's no evidence that acetaminophen use during pregnancy increases the risk of childhood autism, ADHD or intellectual disability, the largest study to date on the subject has concluded.

The analysis of more than 2.4 million children born in Sweden included siblings not exposed to the drug before birth, researchers said.

Siblings share genetics and upbringing, allowing researchers to weed out other factors that might contribute to autism, ADHD and developmental delays.

In this study, researchers found no increased risk when they compared siblings exposed to acetaminophen in the womb to brothers or sisters who weren't, according to results published April 9 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"This study's findings may be welcome news for birthing people who use acetaminophen as a pain or fever management option, since there are few safe alternatives for relief available,"said co-senior author Renee Gardner, a principal researcher with Sweden's Karolinska Institute.

"We hope that our results provide reassurance to expectant parents when faced with the sometimes fraught decision of whether to take these medications during pregnancy when suffering from pain or fever,"Gardner added.

Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol, and is also an ingredient in cold and flu remedies like Theraflu, Excedrin and Mucinex, researchers said in background notes.

Concerns regarding the use of acetaminophen during pregnancy have grown in recent years.

In 2021, an international group of researchers and doctors recommended that pregnant women "minimize exposure [to acetaminophen] by using the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time,"based on research indicating the drug could increase the risk of neurological and developmental disorders in children. Their consensus statement appeared in the journal Nature Reviews Endocrinology.

This new study included data on medication use during pregnancy for births that occurred from 1995 to 2019 in Sweden.

Fewer than 8% of the children were exposed to acetaminophen during pregnancy, researchers said.

Following each child through age 26, researchers found a small increased risk of autism, ADHD and intellectual disability across the entire population.

However, there was no increased risk when siblings were compared, results show.

The increased risk of developmental disorders found in other studies was likely due to factors other than acetaminophen, the researchers said.

"Our study and others suggest there are many different health and familial factors that are associated with both acetaminophen use and neurodevelopmental disorders,"co-senior author Brian Lee, an associate professor with the Drexel University School of Public Health, said in a Drexel news release. "Genetics likely play a role, but future work to elucidate this mechanism is crucial."

More information

Harvard Medical School has more on acetaminophen use during pregnancy.

SOURCE: Drexel University, news release, April 8, 2024 

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