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Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy Increases the Risk of Childhood Behavioral Problems

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Highlights
  • Acetaminophen is the most commonly used drug for relieving pain and fever.
  • The study published in JAMA Pediatrics, reported data on prenatal exposure of acetaminophen during 18 and 32 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Acetaminophen exposure during pregnancy may result in increased risk of hyperactivity and behavioral problems in children.

Use of Acetaminophen during pregnancy may result in hyperactivity and childhood behavioral problems in the offspring.

According to a research study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, it was found that acetaminophen exposure during the 18 and 32 weeks of pregnancy may be associated with kids behavioral problems.

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Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy Increases the Risk of Childhood Behavioral Problems
Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy Increases the Risk of Childhood Behavioral Problems

Acetaminophen - Most Common Pain Reliever

Acetaminophen is the most common drug which is widely used as a pain reliever. It is used in the treatment of fever and is available in a variety of dosage forms like tablet, capsule, oral solution, rectal suppository, suspensions and injections. Acetaminophen is commonly used as an active ingredient in most of the medicines for treating allergy, cough, cold and sleeplessness. It is commonly available in the form of over-the-counter drugs (OTC) as well as prescription medicines.
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Although the drug is being widely used for its analgesic and antipyretic properties. It is known to cause side effects like abdominal pain, itching, skin rashes, nausea and headache and may also result in severe liver damage on prolonged exposure.

Research Study on Acetaminophen Exposure During Pregnancy

The study was based on the data collected from 7796 mothers who enrolled for the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children between 1991 and 1992. This data was analyzed by a team of co-authors along with Evie Stergiakouli, Ph.D., of the University of Bristol, United Kingdom who examined the link between the kids' behavioral problem with prenatal, postnatal or acetaminophen use by their partners.

The results of the data through questionnaires assessed acetaminophen use during the 18 and 32 weeks of pregnancy and when the children were at the age of 5. Behavior related problems were also assessed in 7 year old children through questionnaires.

Around 53% of mothers used acetaminophen during the 18th week of pregnancy and about 42% of mothers reported acetaminophen use during the 32nd week of pregnancy. The questionnaire report suggested that women who took acetaminophen between 18 and 32 weeks of pregnancy were associated with a high risk of conduct and hyperactivity symptoms in children. And use of acetaminophen after 32 weeks of pregnancy reported emotional symptoms and total difficulties in children. While postnatal exposure and acetaminophen use by partners did not result in any behavioral problems. The findings result that childhood behavioral problems due to acetaminophen use may be through intrauterine mechanism which occurs when the drug crosses the placenta through the uterus, Around 5% of the children reported for behavioral problems.

Michele Marcus, Professor at Emory University Schools of Public Health & Medicine, said that this would be the fourth major study on acetaminophen use during pregnancy which is related to neuro-development in children.

However, the study was not able to give details on dosage or duration of acetaminophen use during pregnancy that would result in behavioral problems. The authors have also cautioned on the harmful effects of acetaminophen on fetus against the risk of not treating the mother for pain or fever. And study requires further research and investigation to prove acetaminophen exposure during pregnancy.

Managing Pain during Pregnancy

Back pain headache are some of the minor problems during pregnancy which can be managed by pain relief methods like doing a massage or using cold or warm packs. Avoid unnecessary medications during pregnancy and take only the prescribed dose of the drug to avoid harmful effects on the fetus.

References :

  1. Is acetaminophen use when pregnant associated with kids' behavioral problems? - (http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-08/tjnj-iau081116.php)
  2. Acetaminophen Information - (http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/ucm165107.htm)
Source: Medindia

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