New research links paracetamol use during pregnancy to behavioral problems in kids

  • A new research says using paracetamol during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of behavioral problems in children
  • The researchers said that the use of paracetamol at 18 to 32 weeks gestation was associated with increased risk of hyperactivity
  • However, some experts didn’t agree with the result, particularly the Australian experts who have questioned the data and say further research is needed

BRISTOL, England – A new research, done in the United Kingdom, says using paracetamol during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of behavioral problems in children.

The study, which was published in JAMA Pediatrics, included more than 8000 pregnant women and their children. It was found that the use of paracetamol at 18 to 32 weeks gestation was associated with increased risk of hyperactivity.

Even worse, pregnant women who used paracetamol at 32 weeks of pregnancy was also linked to a higher risk of emotional symptoms in children.

Paracetamol (Acetaminophen) is a drug that is generally considered safe in pregnancy and has been used by many pregnant women for pain and fever.

SBS News mentioned in an article that the longitudinal study conducted by researchers at the University of Bristol revealed that up to five percent of the children born to the pregnant participants who use paracetamol during pregnancy had behavioral problems by the age of seven.

Although the authors admit that the study had its limitations, including a lack of information on dosage or duration of use, they still believed that the findings of the study have important implications on public health advice.

However, some experts didn’t agree with the result, particularly the Australian experts who have questioned the data and say further research is needed.

Norman Saunders, a Professor of pharmacology from the University of Melbourne disagrees on the study, explaining that a causal relationship has not been established and the authors’ claims are “bold”.

Saunders said the authors did not analyze “separately possible associations with the different reasons why the paracetamol had to be taken.”

The professor said some factors should be considered like the pregnant woman might have infections such as flu or cold, which would have been an alternative explanation for the problems identified in children.

Dr. Luke Grzeskowiak, a specialist pharmacist at the Flinders Women & Children’s medical center, also said that further studies are needed before there are any moves to change clinical recommendations about paracetamol use during pregnancy.

“Paracetamol is useful in treating fever and different types of pain and it still remains our first choice of treating these conditions during pregnancy,” said Dr. Grzeskowiak.

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