Nearly 67% of mothers resort to pain killers, such as acetaminophen, during pregnancy. But it's not as safe as you may think! Recent research has discovered that acetaminophen, when taken by pregnant women, increases the risk for certain disorders in the fetus.
Pregnancy is a tough phase to deal with, and pregnant mothers often experience various sorts of pain, especially during the last trimester. They often cope by taking pain-killers, like Tylenol or acetaminophen, to bear with the discomforts. But, it has now come to light that this drug may cause disorders, like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism in the infant.
Blood and umbilical cord tests carried out on 996 mother-child pairs immediately post-birth revealed that the likelihood of such developmental disorders was twice as high in children exposed to acetaminophen during pregnancy.
Previous studies have also suggested the same correlation between acetaminophen and ADHD and autism in children, but those were merely based on the mother's memory of taking the drug. Combining all the above theories, senior study author Dr. Xiaobin Wang said, “Prenatal acetaminophen use is consistently associated with an increased risk of developmental disabilities, including ADHD and possibly [autism]."
Dr. Wang is the director of the Center on the Early Life Origins of Disease at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. Although the research showed a possible link between the drug and disorders, it's not yet confirmed, and Dr. Wang confessed that further in-depth analysis is needed. She furthermore stated that none of the drugs could be considered safe to provide relief in pain and fever during pregnancy.
A study conducted in rats indicated that acetaminophen appeared to influence brain cells and certain hormone levels, which could interrupt fetal brain development. Another recent study conducted on 1,000 kids up to the age of 10, comprising a greater percentage of boys, published a substantial variation. Nearly 26% of children had ADHD. Close to 7% had autism, while 4% had both ADHD and autism. Just over 30% had another developmental disability. Almost 33% had no developmental concerns.
Although the researchers do not recommend a complete ban on this medication, the study provides more information into the pros and cons of both practitioners and patients to consider before coming to a conclusion about usage. There were many aspects that were not considered while performing this study, however. Some of them include the fact that researchers ignored patients' genetic history, other medications, and they avoided inquiring into the full extent and timing of acetaminophen exposure.
Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y. said that in general, acetaminophen is a very "safe and effective medication."
But, he also added, "Since we do not know when during pregnancy the neurodevelopmental risks of acetaminophen exposure are greatest, it is hard to counsel pregnant women as to when they may safely take this medication without increasing the likelihood of their child having ADHD or [autism]." So, the safest option for pregnant women - speak to your doctor before consuming acetaminophen.