Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy Linked to Offspring ADHD

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Women who use a lot of the common pain reliever acetaminophen during pregnancy may be more likely to have children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than those who don't use the drug, a Norwegian study suggests.

According to the results published in the journal Pediatrics, children born to women who took acetaminophen for 29 days or more during pregnancy had more than double the risk of developing ADHD compared to kids born to moms who did not use acetaminophen long-term. "We were furthermore able to analyze maternal use of acetaminophen prior to pregnancy as a specificity control and to estimate the effect of paternal use prior to pregnancy".

For now, Chambers stressed that pregnant women should not be scared off from using acetaminophen for a fever-since an untreated fever could carry risks. "It is important to pursue further research on the possible drug associations with the development of ADHD, and that research will require longitudinal follow-up of large numbers of children with and without ADHD", he wrote. Curiously, while mothers' use of acetaminophen during pregnancy was linked to higher ADHD rates, use before pregnancy was not. Mothers filled out two questionnaires, one during and one after birth; fathers completed surveys on medication use 6 months before pregnancy.

In total 52,707 women (almost 47%) took acetaminophen during pregnancy, and 2,246 children were diagnosed with ADHD.

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Short-term use didn't appear to increase the risk for ADHD. The researchers adjusted for a mother's use of acetaminophen before pregnancy and family history of ADHD. Thus, it is possible that codes were used in some cases when children had language problems or other developmental issue that were not ADHD. It also bases the findings on parents' own reports of their acetaminophen use, which may not be reliable, the experts said. "Other pain and fever medications, such as ibuprofen, should not be used in pregnancy, which leaves narcotics as the only alternatives for pain and no alternatives for fever".

Ystrom said that these results should not deter pregnant woman from taking acetaminophen if they have a fever or are experiencing pain.

He agreed that the study points only to an association between acetaminophen and ADHD, which might reflect a "third factor" at play, such as the underlying condition that caused the women to take the drug.

A serious fever or infection, for example, might be the reason babies developed ADHD, not acetaminophen their mothers took, Andrade, who wasn't involved in the study said by email. Only 4% used it in all 3 trimesters.

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