Acetaminophen is considered the go-to pain medication during pregnancy. But a new study adds to evidence linking the drug to an increased risk of behavioral issues in kids.
Researchers in Norway found that among nearly 113,000 children, those whose mothers used acetaminophen during pregnancy were slightly more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The link was, however, confined to longer-term use – particularly a month or longer.
When moms used acetaminophen for 29 days or more during pregnancy, their kids were twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, versus women who did not use the drug. On the other hand, when expectant moms used the drug for a week or less, their kids showed a slightly decreased risk of ADHD.
Acetaminophen is best known by the brand name Tylenol, but it’s an active ingredient in many pain relievers.
The new study, led by researcher Eivind Ystrom from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo, is not the first to suggest a connection between prenatal acetaminophen and ADHD.
Around half of pregnant women use acetaminophen at some point, so it’s important to understand any risks, according to Christina Chambers, co-director of the Center for Better Beginnings at the University of California, San Diego. But with a study like this, she explained, it’s difficult to know whether factors other than acetaminophen are to blame – including the underlying conditions the women had.
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.
Chambers pointed to a bigger-picture issue: Very few drugs have actually been studied in pregnant women, and fairly little is known about the safety of using any medication prenatally.
The study was published online Oct. 30 in the journal Pediatrics.
This study was covered on national television news this week. However, no recommendations were given other than the comment about treating a fever.
The fact that very little is known about the safety of any medication in pregnancy should be enough to give any pregnant women pause. I wouldn’t take an OTC pain reliever based on concerns about my own health.
Unlike drugs, many herbs have been studied for potential safety issues during pregnancy or lactation. Herbal clinical guides list the contraindications, warnings and precautions, interactions, use in pregnancy and lactation, and any side effects with the prescribing information on dosage.
Many herbs are quite safe during pregnancy or lactation. However, Andrographis and Goldenseal (often used in infection fighting), Barberry, Black Cohosh, Bladderwrack, Blue Cohosh, Bugleweed, Jamaica Dogwood, Motherwort, Myrrh, Neem Leaf, Oregon grape, Pasque flower, Poke root, Sage, Schisandra, Thuja, Tiechi Ginseng, Tylophora, and Uva Ursi are all contraindicated during pregnancy. Black Cohosh and Schisandra are often used to assist in childbirth and Sage is used traditionally to stop milk flow.
The Bottom Line:
I recommend against taking any medications during pregnancy unless absolutely necessary. Use herbs for a fever or pain, but make sure they are listed as safe during pregnancy.
Source: October 30, 2017 National Institutes of Health