A large study found that the use of acetaminophen in pregnant women is not linked to disorders

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Using acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, during pregnancy was not associated with increased risk of autism, ADHD or intellectual disability in children, a new study found.
A statistical model comparing children exposed to acetaminophen during pregnancy with those not exposed found that there was a marginally increased risk of autism, ADHD and intellectual disability in the exposed group.
“This is a very extensive and well-designed study that found no association between acetaminophen use and neurodevelopmental impairment, including autism and ADHD,” he said.
For example, the study found that parents who have neurodevelopmental disorders — which have strong heritability — are also more likely to use pain medications, like acetaminophen, during pregnancy.
This relationship might make it seem like children who are exposed to acetaminophen during pregnancy are more likely to develop neurodevelopmental disorders, when, in fact, their increased risk is due to genetics, according to the study.
The study found significant differences between birthing parents with higher acetaminophen use and those with lower or no use.
Aspirin use, in particular, was associated with a decreased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders in this study; however, this is an early finding, and more investigation is needed to understand this result, Brenner said.
“Hopefully this study will provide reassurance to pregnant people who need to take acetaminophen to optimize their health in any way,” she said.


A recent study found no link between using acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, during pregnancy and a higher risk of autism, ADHD, or intellectual disability in children.

Approximately 2.5 million prenatal and medical records of children born in Sweden between 1995 and 2019 were examined for this study, which was published in the journal JAMA on Tuesday.

The exposed group had a slightly higher risk of autism, ADHD, and intellectual disability, according to a statistical model that compared children exposed to acetaminophen during pregnancy with those who were not. However, acetaminophen use during pregnancy was not linked to an increased risk of autism, ADHD, or intellectual disability, according to a sibling analysis that examined the exposure and outcome of full sibling pairs, or siblings with the same biological parents. The study was led by researchers from Drexel University and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

Based on the shared genetic and environmental factors, sibling analyses are particularly effective in removing some of the confounding variables that can distort clinical trial results.

Dr. Eric Brenner, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Duke University who was not involved in the study, told CNN via email that “matched sibling control studies better control for environmental factors that are unknown to the investigators.”. Researchers can more effectively control for environmental factors when using sibling controls because they will most likely share a home, a diet, and exposure to similar environments during their upbringing. “.

According to Brenner, the study’s strengths include its sibling analysis and large number of participants.

“Use of acetaminophen has not been linked to neurodevelopmental impairment, including autism and ADHD, according to this comprehensive and well-designed study,” he reported. Acetaminophen seems to be safe, although any medication should always be used carefully and after consulting an obstetrician. “.

The aforementioned research findings contradict recent studies and assertions that acetaminophen use during pregnancy is linked to a higher risk of autism, ADHD, and intellectual disability.

While acetaminophen is thought to pose little risk during pregnancy by the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency, a 2021 statement from a global consortium of medical professionals advised pregnant women to exercise caution and “forgo [acetaminophen] unless its use is medically indicated.”. Additionally, a number of studies have connected the use of acetaminophen during pregnancy to a higher risk of ADHD and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

The new study’s authors concluded that confounding may have contributed to the associations seen in other models. “.

Confounding is the process by which an outside factor affects both the exposure and the result, leading to an untrue correlation between the two. For instance, the research discovered that pregnant women who use painkillers like acetaminophen are more likely to have parents with neurodevelopmental disorders, which have a high heritability. The study suggests that this relationship may give the impression that children exposed to acetaminophen during pregnancy have a higher chance of developing neurodevelopmental disorders, but in reality, their increased risk is a result of genetics.

Birthing parents who used acetaminophen more frequently than those who used it less or not at all showed significant differences in the study. Children of lower socioeconomic class parents, those with a higher body mass index during early pregnancy, those who smoked during pregnancy, and those with diagnoses of psychiatric disorders or neurodevelopmental conditions were more likely to be exposed to acetaminophen.

The researchers concluded that the health and sociodemographic traits of several birthing parents each contributed to the apparent association’s explanation, rather than pointing to a single “smoking gun” confounder.

Fascinatingly, the study also discovered that while aspirin, other NSAIDs, and opioids had all previously been linked to birth defects, they were not linked in sibling analyses to an elevated risk of neurodevelopmental disorders and painkillers. According to Brenner, further research is necessary to fully understand this result. The study did find that the use of aspirin in particular was linked to a lower risk of neurodevelopmental disorders.

“As of right now, taking aspirin during pregnancy is not routinely advised. I would strongly advise expectant mothers to talk to their obstetricians about this.”.

According to Brenner, fevers are typical and affect more than 10% of expectant mothers. He stated that while fevers in the first trimester are more frequently linked to serious congenital defects like cleft palate and heart defects, they usually have no effect on fetal development.

According to Brenner, acetaminophen is one of the most widely prescribed and thoroughly researched drugs during pregnancy and is thought to be safe when used sparingly to reduce fever and pain.

Because NSAIDs like ibuprofen and aspirin may cause a fetus’s blood vessel to close too soon, the FDA advises against using them during the third trimester of pregnancy.

Dr. In an email to CNN, Yalda Afshar, an assistant professor in-residence in obstetrics and gynecology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA who was not involved in the new research, advised against using any prescription or over-the-counter medication while pregnant and instead suggested that women speak with a healthcare provider.

In order to improve their health in any way, pregnant women who require acetaminophen may feel more at ease after reading this study, the author said.

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