Scientists have found that babies whose mothers took acetaminophen while pregnant were at higher risk for autism and ADHD.
Researchers in Barcelona looked at 70,000 children in six different studies on the subject and found that between 14 and 56 percent of expectant mothers said they took acetaminophen during pregnancy.
Of the babies exposed to acetaminophen before they were born, 19 percent were more likely to develop symptoms of autism and 21 percent were more likely to develop symptoms of ADHD.
Sílvia Alemany, lead author of the study at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, said: “Our results are in line with previous research.
“We also found that prenatal exposure to acetaminophen affects boys and girls in a similar way, as we observed virtually no differences.”
Researcher Jordi Sunyer said women could still use the pain relievers during pregnancy, but added “only when necessary”.
This study has been described as the largest to date and draws data from the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy, Greece and Spain.
However, doctors in the UK say the results only show that there is a link between exposure to acetaminophen in the womb, resulting in poorer cognitive performance and behavior problems.
Prof. Andrew Shennan, professor of obstetrics at King’s College London, said this could be why women blamed acetaminophen primarily, rather than the drug itself.
He told The Sun, “Analysis cannot rule this out. Paracetamol is an important drug used in lowering temperatures, and high temperatures can be harmful to pregnancy.
“At the moment, women should still take acetaminophen when needed and seek advice from their GP or midwife if they are unsure.”
He added, “This study suggests that women who took acetaminophen while pregnant might be slightly more likely to develop autism in their child.
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“For example, instead of one chance in 1,000, maybe 1.2 / 1,000. Or for every five cases of autism there may be an additional one.”
The NHS website states: “Paracetamol has been used routinely at all stages of pregnancy to lower high temperatures and relieve pain.
“There is no clear evidence that it will have harmful effects on an unborn baby.”
However, pregnant women are advised to stay away from the other popular pain reliever, ibuprofen.
The NHS website it says, “This is because taking ibuprofen at this stage of pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of complications, including a heart problem in your baby and a decreased amount of amniotic fluid.”