A new study published in JAMA PsychiatryTrusted Source on Wednesday found that pregnant women who took acetaminophen — a pain reliever used in medications like Tylenol — had a greater chance of having a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
By testing the blood from umbilical cords, researchers from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health determined that fetuses exposed to acetaminophen had a two times greater chance of developing a developmental disorder.
These findings may affect many women, as up to 70 percentTrusted Source of pregnant women in the United States have reported taking acetaminophen during pregnancy.
However, this is one study and health experts agree that we need more research before we can definitely say taking acetaminophen during pregnancy can increase your child’s risk of having either autism or ADHD.
Autism and ADHD are likely caused by a mix of factors — such as genetics, family history, and environment — and it’s too soon to pinpoint a definitive cause-and-effect trigger.
“This is a surprising finding as most of the medical community considers Tylenol a very safe medication and, in fact, it may be,” says Ruth Milanaik, DO, the director of Neonatal Developmental Follow Up Programs at Cohen Children’s Medical Center. “While one study cannot be considered definitive proof of cause, this study is a large study that found that women who take acetaminophen during pregnancy have a significantly higher risk of having a child with a neurodevelopmental disorder.”
Anyone who is trying to conceive or currently pregnant should talk to their doctor about the risks and benefits of acetaminophen, and whether they recommend taking it during pregnancy.
Acetaminophen was associated with autism and ADHD
To understand the health risks linked to acetaminophen exposure in the womb, researchers looked at the health data of 996 mother-infant pairings from the Boston Birth Cohort. The pairs, or dyads, had enrolled at birth and followed up between 1998 to 2018.
The researchers specifically studied umbilical cord blood samples to measure how much acetaminophen reached the fetus during pregnancy. They then looked at how many of the children went on to develop ADHD or autism down the road.
Of the group, approximately 26 percent of the children had ADHD. Nearly 7 percent had autism, and about 4 percent had both ADHD and autism.
Thirty percent had some other type of developmental condition, and 33 percent showed no signs of a developmental issue.