An interesting meta-analysis published in the journal of Clinical & Experimental Allergy reports that children whose mothers used paracetamol (acetaminophen) during pregnancy may have a slightly higher risk of childhood wheeze.
Dr. Sally Eyers and co-researchers from the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand in Wellington conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies that looked into prenatal exposure of paracetamol and its link with asthma in children. The primary outcome in the reviewed studies was wheezing in the past 12 months. Researchers pooled results from six studies that analyzed the link between paracetamol during pregnancy and asthma in children.
The children roped in for the study were aged 30 to 84 months. The studies noted variable effects on timing of paracetamol consumption during pregnancy. For example, the Danish National Birth Cohort Study found the highest risk during the first trimester of pregnancy, wherein the Dominican and African American Birth Cohort Study showed greater risk in the second and third trimesters, while the United States Cohort Study noted a greater risk in only third trimester.
Methodological shortcomings of the study were that it used unadjusted and raw data. Also, adjusted results of source studies were not comparable as they adjusted it for varying confounders. Therefore, the result of the meta-analysis could be affected by early-life respiratory tract disease, maternal smoking, breast-feeding status, gestational age, pet ownership, and social status.
The conclusion is that the study did find a link between taking paracetamol during pregnancy and an increased risk of asthma in children. However, the link is not very strong, and the study only indicates but does not prove that paracetamol causes asthma.
Dr. Eyers, the main author writes, "More research is urgently required to determine the impact of paracetamol during pregnancy on the risk of wheezing in offspring so that appropriate public health recommendations can be made."
Still, the statuary advice remains the same to avoid the use of all medications during pregnancy. If the need is unavoidable, consultation with the doctor is a must. Pregnant women using paracetamol are advised to take the lowest dose possible for the shortest period of time, in order to minimize risks to their baby.