Can Taking Tylenol While Pregnant Really Cause ADHD in Children?
This is the question parents, and parents-to-be, have begun asking themselves since the results of a long-term study were published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA). The research collected claims to have found a link between Tylenol use in parents and attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.
Pregnant women suffering from a headache or fever have long been advised to take acetaminophen (the main ingredient in Tylenol) to combat their symptoms. New studies, and their findings, are causing expectant women to wonder “is Tylenol really safe to take during pregnancy?”
However, experts are divided about the strength to the studies findings. Their hesitation comes from the fact that no one can explain the reason why the drug would cause any harm to a fetus. A direct reasoning has never been found, only an association between the drug and the disorder. Some say that is not enough evidence to support the claim.
Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of behavioral and developmental pediatrics at Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York said, “I don’t think we know that anything is safer than acetaminophen.” Which makes sense, because the effects of an untreated fever to an unborn child are risky as well.
Scott Gavura, over at sciencebasedmedicine.org, pointed out the dangers of women turning away from Tylenol, and taking riskier alternative because of their fear. However, John Thompson, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Auckland would disagree. He believes the evidence against acetaminophen is building, although more research is needed.
Is There Proof That Acetaminophen can Cause ADHD?
The most-recent study asked approximately 7,800 mothers to answer questions regarding their use of acetaminophen in their eighteenth week of pregnancy, their thirty-second week of pregnancy, and when their children were five years old.
The questions that the participants were asked revolved around their use of acetaminophen. They were asked how frequently they had used the medication, when they took the medication, and various other questions of the same nature.
In conclusion, it was discovered that on average, 40% (or more) of the woman had taken the medication during at least one stage of their pregnancy. The parents who took the medication during pregnancy had children who were 1.3 times more likely to be showing signs of ADHD, or taking medication for the disorder, by the age of seven.
Fathers were also asked to participate in the study and report their acetaminophen use before conception. It was discovered that the fathers use of acetaminophen was probably not linked to their child’s behavior. Some researchers believe this strengthens the theory that the mothers use of the medication while pregnant is the cause of the problems.
Of course, we have to remember that the study had some very serious limitations. Everything depended on how the participants answered the questions. There were no ways to now scientifically measure the amount of acetaminophen that was taken, or when, and they were not asked questions about why they had taken the acetaminophen. This opens the door for arguments that debate if the medication is the cause, or if there were pre-existing issues that made them need to take the medication, and if those issues are the actual culprit.
Although the reason why cannot yet be explained, there does seem to be some kind of link between the use of acetaminophen and ADHD. Studies done on animals have suggested abnormal brain development in the third trimester, the time when most brain developments and growth occur.
Conclusion: Should Woman Avoid Taking Tylenol During Pregnancy?
In 2015, the FDA reviewed several different studies researching pain medication use during pregnancy. They ultimately reached the conclusion that they could not confirm any “reliable conclusions,” because of the limitations in the studies.
So where does that leave frightened mothers?
- It’s always a good idea to talk with your doctor before taking any medication, pregnant or not, but especially when you’re pregnant.
- There is a link between the two things slowly being discovered, but the seriousness of that link has not been confirmed.
- Ultimately, it is for the doctors and parents to decide if the risks outweigh the dangers of not taking it.
- It’s always a good idea to avoid taking pain medication when you can, but in some situations, it is riskier not to take any medication at all.
- It will be interesting to see what’s discovered in the coming years, but for now it seems people are urged not to panic, and talk with your doctor about your concerns.