Acetaminophen May Slow Language Development

By Pat Anson, Editor

Another study has linked acetaminophen to learning difficulties in young children born to mothers who used the over-the-counter pain reliever during pregnancy.

Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York City say toddlers exposed to acetaminophen in the womb had a slower rate of language development at 30 months. The findings are consistent with other studies reporting higher rates of autism, attention deficit disorder (ADHD) and behavioral problems in children born to mothers who used acetaminophen while pregnant.  

Acetaminophen (paracetamol) is one of the most widely used pain relievers in the world. It is the active ingredient in Tylenol, Excedrin, and hundreds of other pain medications. Researchers say over half the pregnant women in the United States and European Union use the drug.

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“Given the prevalence of prenatal acetaminophen use and the importance of language development, our findings, if replicated, suggest that pregnant women should limit their use of this analgesic during pregnancy,” said senior author Shanna Swan, PhD, Professor of Environmental and Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

“It’s important for us to look at language development because it has shown to be predictive of other neurodevelopmental problems in children.”

The study involved 754 women who enrolled in the Swedish Environmental Longitudinal, Mother and Child, Asthma and Allergy study (SELMA) during weeks 8-13 of their pregnancy. Researchers asked the women to report the number of acetaminophen tablets they took between conception and enrollment, and tested the acetaminophen concentration in their urine.

A delay in a child's language development, defined as the use of fewer than 50 words at 30 months of age, was measured by a nurse and a follow-up questionnaire filled out by the mothers.

Girls born to mothers with high exposure -- those who took acetaminophen more than six times in early pregnancy -- were nearly six times more likely to have language delay than girls born to mothers who did not take acetaminophen.

While the number of acetaminophen tablets and concentration in urine were associated with a significant increase in language delay in girls, there was only a slight increase in boys.  The findings suggest that acetaminophen use in pregnancy results in the loss of the well-recognized female advantage in language development in early childhood.

The study is published online in the journal European Psychiatry. Researchers will follow-up with the children and re-examine their language development at age seven.

A 2016 study of over 2,600 Spanish women linked acetaminophen to autism and attention deficit problems in their children. Studies in Denmark and New Zealand have also linked acetaminophen to a higher risk of ADHD.

Over 50 million people in the U.S. use acetaminophen each week to treat pain and fever. The pain reliever has long been associated with liver injury and allergic reactions such as skin rash. In the U.S. over 50,000 emergency room visits each year are caused by acetaminophen, including 25,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths.

Acetaminophen Linked to Kids’ Behavior Problems

By Pat Anson, Editor

Another study has linked acetaminophen to attention deficit and other behavioral problems in children whose mothers used the over-the-counter pain reliever while pregnant.

"Children exposed to acetaminophen use prenatally are at increased risk of multiple behavioral difficulties,” said lead author Evie Stergiakouli, PhD, of the University of Bristol. “Given the widespread use of acetaminophen among pregnant women, this can have important implications on public health advice.”

The study, published in JAMA Pediatricsinvolved nearly 7,800 mothers in the UK who used acetaminophen in 1991 and 1992.

Prenatal use of acetaminophen in the second and third trimesters was associated with a higher risk of behavior problems and hyperactivity in children. Use of acetaminophen at 32 weeks of pregnancy was also associated with a higher risk for emotional problems.

“We found stronger association between maternal acetaminophen use and multiple behavioral and emotional problem domains during the third trimester than during the second trimester, in agreement with previous studies that have included multiple measurement times during pregnancy," said Stergiakouli

"Given that there is active brain development and growth during the third trimester, this finding could indicate that there are developmental periods when the brain is more sensitive to acetaminophen exposure.” 

Acetaminophen (paracetamol) is one of the most widely used pain relievers in the world. It is the active ingredient in Tylenol, Excedrin, and hundreds of other pain medications. Researchers say over half the pregnant women in the United States and European Union use the drug.

"The risk of not treating fever or pain during pregnancy should be carefully weighed against any potential harm of acetaminophen to the offspring," said Stergiakouli

A recent study of over 2,600 Spanish women linked acetaminophen to autism and attention deficit problems in their children. Studies in Denmark and New Zealand have also linked acetaminophen with a higher risk of hyperkinetic disorders and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Over 50 million people in the U.S. use acetaminophen each week to treat pain and fever. The pain reliever has long been associated with liver injury and allergic reactions such as skin rash.

Acetaminophen Linked to Autism and ADHD

By Pat Anson, Editor

An over-the-counter pain reliever widely used by pregnant women has been linked to autism and attention deficit problems in their children, according to researchers.

In a new study involving over 2,600 Spanish women and their children, published online in the International Journal of Epidemiology, researchers said maternal use of acetaminophen – also known as paracetamol -- appears to increase the risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in boys. There was also a “weak” association between acetaminophen and attention deficit disorder (ADHD) in both male and female children.

“To our knowledge, this is the first prospective study to report an independent association between the use of acetaminophen during pregnancy and autism spectrum symptomatology in exposed children. It is also the first paper to report differential gender effects of prenatal acetaminophen exposure on neurodevelopment,” the researchers said.

About 40 percent of the women in the study used acetaminophen while pregnant. Their children were evaluated at 1 and 5 years of age.

The researchers speculated that boys may metabolize acetaminophen differently than girls, accounting for the greater risk of autism.

“Animal studies have suggested that male mice undergo greater toxicity than female mice after being administered a similar dose of acetaminophen. Furthermore, the male brain may be more vulnerable to early life stressors  and this could explain why neuropsychiatric disorders of childhood, such as ASC and ADHD, are more prevalent in male children,” they said.

Acetaminophen (paracetamol) is the world’s most widely used over-the-counter pain reliever. It is the active ingredient in Tylenol, Excedrin, and hundreds of other pain medications.

In a review of the study, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) said researchers failed to prove a clear link between maternal use of acetaminophen and autism or ADHD.

“This research cannot prove paracetamol use is directly responsible for these findings. Not all links were statistically significant – for example, paracetamol was not linked with ADHD when looking at full diagnostic criteria, or with ASD when looking at the full sample of children,” the NHS said. “Importantly, no link was found with developmental or intellectual outcomes in the child.

“The current viewpoint is that occasionally using paracetamol as needed, and at recommended doses, is safe during pregnancy. This study has not provided sufficient evidence to the contrary to change this advice.”

Over 50 million people in the U.S. use acetaminophen each week to treat pain and fever. The pain reliever has long been associated with liver injury and allergic reactions such as skin rash.

Another recent study of pregnant women found that Lyrica (pregabalin) – a medication also prescribed for pain – appears to  increase the risk of major births defects, including heart defects and structural problems with the central nervous system.