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A new study suggests that Acetaminophen in pregnancy could be linked with sleep and attention problems in young children

Pregnancy and Tylenol may lead to child behavior issues in children as young as three years.

This is according to a report in PLOS Medicine.

Lead author Kristin Sznajder is an assistant professor of public and health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine. She stated that although acetaminophen is often used in pregnancy to treat a wide range of conditions, evidence is emerging that acetaminophen may have developmental problems among children.

She said that “our research showed that acetaminophen usage during pregnancy increased the risk of attention and sleep problems in young children by more than 20%.”

Here are more details.

What is Acetaminophen?

According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, Acetaminophen can be taken over the counter to relieve pain and fever.

It can also be prescribed.

FDA states that Acetaminophen is “found in hundreds of medications including those used to treat colds, flu, allergies, and sleep.”

Multiple reports indicate that approximately 65%-70% have reported using pain medication during pregnancy.

The study stated that acetaminophen can cross the placental barrier, which may impact fetal development. However, it is not known what the mechanism of action of acetaminophen’s effect on fetuses is.

Penn State researchers reviewed data from the First Baby Study. This prospective study, which followed more than 3,000 mothers who gave birth in Pennsylvania between 2009 and 2011, was designed to assess the effects of a mother’s delivery method on childbearing.

The researchers examined 2,423 mother/child pairs. They completed a “prenatal Stress Inventory” and reported their medication usage during the third trimester.

The methods of the study

Participants were asked to identify any prescription or non-prescription medication (other than vitamins) they used occasionally during pregnancy.

Their child was three years old when they completed the Child Behavior Checklist. According to the study, this checklist “has been widely utilized in studies of neurodevelopmental or behavioral outcomes in young children.”

The questionnaire included 99 items and asked the women to rate their children on a scale of three points.

At baseline, the mothers were interviewed to assess for depression and stress levels during pregnancy.

The study’s results

The study revealed that 42% of participants used acetaminophen in pregnancy. A third of the participants went through labor induction, while 29.4% underwent a Cesarean birth.

Women who took acetaminophen during pregnancy were more likely to use alcohol, have private insurance, and be non-Hispanic white.

These women were more likely than others to have anxiety or depression before their pregnancy and to experience high levels of stress during pregnancy.

Women who took acetaminophen were more likely to have consumed other non-prescription drugs than those who did.

The study, which did not control for confounding variables, found that “acetaminophen usage was associated with higher scores [in three areas]: [children] who are] withdraw, [have] sleep issues, and [have] attention difficulties.”

After accounting for possible confounding factors, such as stress during pregnancy, the researchers discovered that children of women who took acetaminophen while pregnant were significantly more likely than their peers to suffer from sleep and attention problems.

After controlling for stress, the authors found that there was a “minimum association” between adverse child behavior outcomes and acetaminophen usage. This suggests that children’s behavioral outcomes may be affected by stress and acetaminophen.

Limitations of the study

There were several limitations to the study, such as the inability to determine the dosage or frequency of acetaminophen use during pregnancy by the participants and the inability to stratify the use of Acetaminophen according to trimester.

Researchers may also have underestimated the use of acetaminophen among participants, as the women were only asked about their medication history for a single period during pregnancy.

The mother’s observations and impressions were all that were used in the study, and the child was not assessed by a psychologist.

The study found that there was a link between child behavior problems and acetaminophen usage at the age of three.

The authors recommended that health care professionals weigh the risks and benefits of recommending acetaminophen to pregnant women.

Is it safe to take acetaminophen during pregnancy?

FDA is aware that previous research has shown a link between acetaminophen use and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), in children born to mothers who used the pain medication during pregnancy.

According to its website, the agency reviewed the research but, due to potential limitations in design, and sometimes contradicting results, it did not reach a reliable conclusion.

FDA stated that pregnant women should consult their doctor before they take any OTC or prescription medicine.

“Women who take pain medication and are thinking of getting pregnant should consult their doctors to discuss the benefits and risks involved in using pain medicine.”

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