Danish study links acetaminophen use during pregnancy to increased risk of ADHD

A new Danish study has found that using the pain reliever acetaminophen during pregnancy could increase a child’s risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.

According to ABC News , the findings published Tuesday in JAMA Pediatrics, may cause women and their doctors to question the pain pill of choice during pregnancy.

The ABC report states that several obstetricians and child psychiatry experts said pregnant women should not forgo taking acetaminophen based on this study if they need it -- particularly since some of the symptoms that the pain pill is used to treat can themselves lead to problems in newborns.

The study looked at 64,000 expecting mothers over a six-year period, and during that time more than half took acetaminophen. After delivery, the investigators followed the newborns through childhood, screening them for ADHD and other behavioral problems, according to ABC.

The researchers found that children of women who had taken acetaminophen were 13 percent more likely to have ADHD-like behaviors by age 7, including issues with attention span and temper. Those same children had a 30 percent greater chance of requiring the use of an ADHD medication. Additionally, the further into pregnancy and the longer the duration for which the woman took acetaminophen, the greater the risk, ABC reported.

The authors acknowledged, however, that the results are preliminary, and it is not clear that acetaminophen causes ADHD. This is echoed in an editorial published by the same journal.

An expecting mother of Colerain Township told WCPO reporter Shannon Kettler that with her first little one on the way, she is very cautious of what she puts into her body.

"Whatever you intake, yeah that's ok for you, but while you are pregnant you have to take into consideration that there's two people," Diaombe Mitchem said. "You and a whole new person that has never been exposed to anything."

Mitchem prefers an all-natural route to treat aches and pains during her pregnancy.

"I feel personally I shouldn't be putting this (acetaminophen) into my body," she said. "I haven't even had a Tums. Probably would have helped a lot faster. But you know, it's how am I affecting this person plus this person who I've never met. How am I altering his life or changing him in some way?"

The Food and Drug Administration approves acetaminophen for a variety of medical reasons, including for fever and pain. Listed as a Pregnancy Class B medication, acetaminophen crosses the placenta, but it is generally considered safe for both mother and baby.

"These are just preliminary studies that suggest there might be a link but you need a lot more studies to show whether it's really true or not and more science behind it," said Dr. Lee Lautman, MD. Lautman is a Obstetrician and Gynecologist for Group Health, TriHealth Physcian Partners. "Is this something to get all upset about? Absolutely not. Tylenol is very common and hyperactivity is very common so it's going to be hard to put a link between the two."

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