Puberty. It's a stage no mother exactly looks forward to.
While the pre-teen to teen years usually bring on the bodily changes and hormones that seem to transform our children overnight from little darlings to alien lifeforms, some parents have to endure the wonderful world of puberty much earlier than expected. Most females will begin puberty around ten or eleven years old, but some are starting to develop and change earlier than their peers. One study out of Aarhus University suggests that painkillers in pregnancy could be a contributing factor.
Researchers think that they have discovered a correlation between the number of weeks that a woman has ingested painkillers containing paracetamol during pregnancy and the onset of puberty. The findings only stood true in regards to the analgesic and female children. The medication does not seem to have the same effect on male fetuses and their puberty development later on in life.
The eye-opening study is based on the largest mass of Danish puberty data thus far. Over 100,000 women provided data to researchers regarding their use of paracetamol three times during their pregnancy. Some 15,822 children were born to the study group, (7,697 boys and 8,125 girls) between the years 2000 and 2003. These kids were closely followed from age 11 throughout their completion of puberty. Questionnaires were given to the children every six months, asking them about different aspects of their puberty development.
What the researchers found was that girls enter puberty 1.5 to 3 months earlier if their mother took painkillers for longer than three months while she was carrying them in utero. While three months might seem like a drop in the bucket of life, it should make both women and the medical community consider how often they take a medication that has for so long been thought to be a "non-factor" in pregnancy. Studies suggest that half of pregnant women use of painkillers containing paracetamol at least one time during their pregnancy.
Early puberty isn't just a royal pain in the rear. It comes with some dicey risks for children. Early puberty has been tied to serious diseases in adulthood such as cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers, diabetes, and obesity. The more science knows about what causes the early onset of puberty, the more adept they can be at turning back the hand of time or at least ward off the inevitable for a bit longer.