Paracetamol in pregnancy raises children’s risk of ADHD and autism

Pregnant women who take paracetamol are up to 30 per cent more likely to have children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), new research suggests.

The common painkiller, which is also known as acetaminophen, also raises children’s risk of autism by up to 20 per cent, a study found.

Study author Dr Ilan Matok, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said: ‘Our findings suggest an association between prolonged acetaminophen use and an increase in the risk of autism and ADHD.’

Although it is unclear how the drug causes ADHD or autism, paracetamol has previously been linked to communication problems and reduced IQs among children whose mothers took the medication while expecting.

Paracetamol is the active ingredient in hundreds of over-the-counter medications, and is the first-line painkiller for pregnant women to relieve fever and discomfort.

Around 65 per cent of pregnant women in the US take the drug when expecting, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Pregnant women who take paracetamol are up to 30 per cent more likely to have children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), new research suggests (stock)

Pregnant women who take paracetamol are up to 30 per cent more likely to have children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), new research suggests (stock)


Baby wipes increase children’s risk of developing life-threatening food allergies, research suggested in April 2018.

Immune reactions to everyday produce like nuts, eggs and soy may be brought on by a ‘perfect storm’ of baby wipes, dust and food exposure, a study found in a ‘major advance’.

Researchers believe this is due to an ingredient in soap found in baby wipes, known as sodium lauryl sulphate, lingering on infants’ skin and disrupting its protective fatty barrier.

In youngsters with genetic mutations that predispose them to allergies, this disruption could lead to immune reactions if they are, for instance, kissed by a sibling with peanut butter on their face, according to the US researchers.

The scientists recommend parents reduce their youngsters’ food allergy risk by washing their hands before touching them and rinsing off excess soap after baby wipe use.

Around one in 13 children in the US suffer from at least one food allergy, according to Food Allergy Research Education.

Lead author Professor Joan Cook-Mills, from Northwestern University, said: ‘I thought about what are babies exposed to.

‘They are exposed to environmental allergens in dust in a home.

‘They may not be eating food allergens as a newborn, but they are getting them on their skin.

‘Say a sibling with peanut butter on her face kisses the baby. Or a parent is preparing food with peanuts and then handles the baby. ‘

Professor Cook-Mills then investigated skin studies that assessed the impact of soap, saying: ‘I thought “oh my gosh!’ That’s infant wipes!”‘

Pregnant women should still take paracetamol when needed 

Despite their findings, the researchers are cautious not to worry women, and stress that pain and fever themselves can have detrimental effects on unborn children.

They add expectant mothers can take paracetamol for a short while, however, if their pain continues, women should contact their doctors.

Dr Matok said: ‘While unnecessary use of any medication should be avoided in pregnancy, we believe our findings should not alter current practice and women should not avoid use of short term acetaminophen when clinically needed.’

The researchers analysed 132,738 mother-child pairs over three-to-11 years.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Taking paracetamol during pregnancy delays babies’ speech 

This comes after research released last January suggested taking paracetamol during pregnancy delays babies’ speech by up to six times.

Expectant mothers who take acetaminophen more than six times during their early pregnancies are significantly more likely to have daughters with limited vocabularies, a study found. It is unclear why boys are unaffected.

Study author Dr Shanna Swan, from Mount Sinai hospital, New York, said: ‘Given the prevalence of prenatal acetaminophen use and the importance of language development, our findings, if replicated, suggest that pregnant women should limit their use of this analgesic during pregnancy.

‘It’s important for us to look at language development because it has shown to be predictive of other neurodevelopmental problems in children.’

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