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Paracetamol during pregnancy may be linked to attention and sleep problems in young children: new study


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Taking the pain reliever acetaminophen, also known under the brand name Tylenol, during pregnancy may be associated with behavioral problems in children at age three.

That’s according to a new report published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

“Acetaminophen is commonly used during pregnancy to treat a variety of ailments, but evidence is emerging showing that acetaminophen may be associated with developmental problems among children,” said lead author Kristin Sznajder, assistant professor of science at public health at the Penn State College of Medicine.

“Our research found that acetaminophen use during pregnancy increased the risk of attention and sleep problems among young children by more than 20%,” she told Fox News Digital.

Here are more details.

What is acetaminophen?

Acetaminophen is often taken as an over-the-counter medication to reduce pain and fever, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

It is also a prescription drug.

Participants in a new study were asked what prescription and nonprescription medications (other than vitamins) they occasionally took during pregnancy.
(iStock)

The FDA notes that acetaminophen “is found in hundreds of medications, including those used for colds, flu, allergies, and sleep.”

Approximately 65% ​​to 70% of pregnant women reported using pain relievers during pregnancy, according to various reports.

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“Although acetaminophen has been shown to cross the placental barrier and thus may directly affect fetal development, the mechanisms of action of acetaminophen’s effect on fetuses are unknown,” the study said.

For this study, the researchers studied 2,423 mother-child pairs, in which the women completed a “prenatal stress inventory.”

Penn State researchers reviewed data from the First Baby Study, which is a prospective study designed to examine the impact of a mother’s mode of delivery on motherhood by following more than 3,000 women who gave birth between 2009 and 2011 at various hospitals from Pennsylvania.

For this study, researchers studied 2,423 mother-child pairs, in which the women completed a “prenatal stress inventory” and reported medication use during the third trimester.

Study Methods

Participants were asked what prescription and nonprescription medications (other than vitamins) they occasionally took during pregnancy.

The new study found that about 42% of the participants reported using acetaminophen during their pregnancies.

The new study found that about 42% of the participants reported using acetaminophen during their pregnancies.
(iStock)

When their child turned three, they completed the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), which “has been widely used in studies of neurodevelopmental and behavioral outcomes in young children,” according to the study.

The women completed the 99-item CBCL questionnaire that asked them to rate their son using a three-point scale on a variety of behaviors, including fidgeting, avoiding eye contact and not wanting to sleep alone.

The mothers were interviewed at the beginning of the study to assess depression and stress level during pregnancy.

Study Results

The study found that approximately 42% of participants reported using acetaminophen during pregnancy, with one-third of women undergoing labor induction and 29.4% undergoing cesarean section.

Women who used acetaminophen were also more likely to have used alcohol during pregnancy, have private insurance, and be non-Hispanic white.

The study noted several limitations, including not determining the dose or frequency of acetaminophen use between participants' pregnancies.

The study noted several limitations, including not determining the dose or frequency of acetaminophen use between participants’ pregnancies.
(iStock)

These women were more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression before pregnancy and were more likely to report high levels of stress during their pregnancies.

They were also more likely to have taken other over-the-counter medications in addition to acetaminophen, compared to women who did not take acetaminophen.

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When the study analyzed the data without controlling for confounding variables, it found that “acetaminophen use was associated with higher scores in three areas: [children who are] retired, [have] sleep problems and [have] Attention problems”.

Health professionals should weigh the benefits against the risks when recommending acetaminophen during pregnancy, the authors of a new study suggested.

But after the study took into account variables that could confound the results, such as stress during pregnancy, the researchers found that children of women who used acetaminophen during pregnancy were significantly more likely to have sleep problems and problems with attention compared to the children of women who did not. Do not take acetaminophen during pregnancy.

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The authors noted that the association between acetaminophen use and adverse behavioral outcomes in children was “mitigated” after controlling for participants’ stress, suggesting that stress and acetaminophen use may independently affect outcomes behavioral in children.

Study limitations

The study noted several limitations, including not determining the dose or frequency of acetaminophen use among participants’ pregnancies, and not stratifying acetaminophen use by trimester.

The study only assessed the child’s behavior through the mother’s observations and impressions, not through a trained psychologist.

The researchers may also have underestimated acetaminophen use among the participants because the women were only asked about their medication history in one period of time during pregnancy.

The study only assessed the child’s behavior through the mother’s observations and impressions, and not through a trained psychologist.

Pregnant women were only asked about their medication history at one point in time during their pregnancy, not consistently throughout their pregnancy.

Pregnant women were only asked about their medication history at one point in time during their pregnancy, not consistently throughout their pregnancy.
(iStock)

This study concluded in its findings “an association between acetaminophen use and child behavior problems at the age of three.”

Health professionals should weigh the benefits against the risks when recommending acetaminophen during pregnancy, the authors suggested.

Is it safe to use paracetamol during pregnancy?

The FDA is aware of previous research that has shown an association between acetaminophen and the risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children born to women who took pain relievers during pregnancy.

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The agency reviewed the research, but due to possible limitations in the design and sometimes conflicting results, did not find a reliable conclusion, according to its website.

“Pregnant women should always consult with their health care professional before taking any prescription or over-the-counter medication,” the FDA said.

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“Women who take pain medication and are considering becoming pregnant should also consult with their healthcare professionals to discuss the risks and benefits of pain medication use.”



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