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ADHD Linked to Tylenol Use in Pregnancy

by Katlyn Joy | March 10, 2014 7:48 AM
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It's one of the stand-by, safe to use medications for pregnant women; Tylenol. But now a new study is once again raising questions about just how safe it really is.

A study published in the February 25 edition of JAMA Pediatrics, found strong connections between expectant mother's acetaminophen use and ADHD in offspring. The research is based on findings from the Danish National Birth Cohort which followed over 64,000 women and their babies between 1996 and 2002. The lead researcher, Dr. Jorn Olsen, of the University of Aarhus in Denmark, discovered a 37 percent increase in ADHD diagnosis, and a 29 percent increased risk of need of medication in the children of mothers who used the pain reliever compared to moms who did not.

More than half of the women in the study reported using acetaminophen in the few months prior to the study. Researchers accounted for factors such as maternal health, infection or inflammation and still saw the increases. More troubling is the fact that when mothers used Tylenol for 20 weeks or more during pregnancy, the risk of attention-deficit, hyperactivity disorder nearly doubled.

The determination of ADHD was based on findings from three sources; prescriptions to treat ADHD, hospital diagnoses, and reports of symptoms by mothers or caregivers.

Acetaminophen is a known endocrine disrupter, meaning it interrupts normal hormone processes in the brain during the prenatal period. Other studies have found a link between the drug and undescended testes in baby boys. Neuroscientists are looking at problems of connection between regions of the brain giving rise to issues such as autism and ADHD. It could be possible that using the pain reliever may cause hormonal disruptions that affect brain development in utero, causing ADHD to occur later in childhood.

However, researchers caution that absolute causation cannot be pinpointed with this one study. While we know Tylenol causes the placenta to the baby, it has been believed that the drug is safe for both mother and child. Using the drug now, in light of this study, requires careful consideration.

Usually mothers take the medication for fevers, upper respiratory infections and aches and pains. These are not urgent, but generally more annoying conditions. A high fever or other conditions may require the use of Tylenol, so a woman should consult a physician before routinely taking it. Some situations warrant its use, despite these possible problem associations with ADHD.

However, the longer the medication is taken and the more it's used, the greater the risk of ADHD. Like everything in pregnancy, expectant mothers must look at the benefit/risk ratio when using Tylenol.

ADHD causes problems in learning, behavioral issues at home and school and puts children at risks for accidents. It is characterized by impulsivity, hyperactivity and inattention. Approximately 5 percent of American children have the disorder, and it affects boys in greater number than girls.

Researchers believe should further studies prove a stronger causation link between Tylenol and ADHD in offspring, the drug will be reclassified for use in pregnancy as it would no longer be able to considered a safe medication.

This is the second study in the past year that has raised concerns about the use of Tylenol (acetaminophen) during pregnancy. In August of 2013, researchers found that using the popular pain reliever may affect baby development, including fine motor skills, communication, behavior problems, and personality disorders. Has the time finally come for expectant mother's to suffer with pain during pregnancy as our ancestors did? We all certainly hope not!

Natural Ways to Relieve Pain

For cases of aches and pains in pregnancy, women can use non-drug home remedies such as using heat or cold packs, gentle stretching yoga exercises, massage, and regular exercise. It may also be help in the case of backache or headache to watch posture and avoid sitting or lying too long in any one position. Some expectant mothers find a support belt under the tummy to help with back pain, as well. Using relaxation exercises may be another remedy for common pains of pregnancy. Some foods may be found to be a trigger for headaches, so keeping a food diary may be helpful in eliminating risk factors for headaches.


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