Acetaminophen is the most common form of pain medication and can be bought over-the- counter to treat conditions like back pain, headaches, arthritis and other minor aches. You can also find it in prescription medications like Percocet and Vicodin. But it is not safe for some pregnant women, a study found.
A recent and shocking study conducted by JAMA Pediatrics found that pregnant women who took acetaminophen had children with hyperactivity. Researchers found that 5 percent of children were diagnosed with ADD and ADHD by the time they reached the age of seven of mothers who used acetaminophen. Mothers who did use the drug had a higher risk of having kids with behavior, relational and other multiple emotional issues like anxiety as well. How acetaminophen influences the pregnancy and behavior of the child is not 100 percent known, but the according the Huffington Post, there is an intrauterine effect “when a pregnant woman takes acetaminophen, the medication can cross the placenta and enter the uterus.” There could be periods where the brain is more sensitive to the acetaminophen during the development. “The brain is actively growing and developing during the third trimester of pregnancy,” the site reported and according to the study. However, the study couldn’t directly link acetaminophen and more studies need to be conducted, as there are other variables to consider like home life, parents, social, peer, and economic pressures to consider.
Also researchers found that women taking the pain reliever during the third trimester reportedly experienced a risk of 46 percent of having a child with emotional problems than those women who did not take acetaminophen. Research was conducted in 7,796 pregnant women and their children and those mothers who took acetaminophen in Bristol, England for seven years. More than half (53 percent) of the women took the pills during the second trimester, and 42 percent during the third trimester. Less than one percent of women reported in taking the drug on a daily basis. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention shared on their website from a 2008 study what mothers were using for pain and ailments.They shared that: "Acetaminophen was used by in 65 percent of pregnant women. Ibuprofen, another common pain reliever, was used by about 18 percent of women during pregnancy. Pseudoephedrine, a decongestant, was used by about 15 percent of pregnant women."
This is not the first study on the impact of acetaminophen on children later in life. A study that included 65,000 women in Denmark was release in 2014 showed a correlation between the usage of acetaminophen and ADHD. Researchers followed children born 1996 and 2002 and more than half the mothers reported taking acetaminophen and those who took it were “13 to 37 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD or hyperkinetic disorders by the time they were seven-years old. The findings might explain some of the increase in rates of ADHD in past decades, but more research is needed to show whether there is a cause-and-effect relationship between the drug and ADHD," Live Science reported. The study is remarkably similar to the recent one from JAMA Pediatrics and could be considered as confirmation. ADHD has made the headlines for years. The American Psychological Association said that the nation's rate of ADHD is on the rise. In 2003 children between the ages of four and 17 received a ADHD diagnoses. In 2007 it jumped to 9.5 percent. The CDC reported that there are an estimated 5.1 million children in the U.S. that now have ADHD.
Acetaminophen has also been linked to asthma in children where researchers found that children whose mothers took the drug for over 28 days during pregnancy had a greater risk of asthma, and developmental problems. A Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort study studied 114,500 mothers and children and their exposure to acetaminophen during pregnancy and it was believed that there was an increased risk in children at three years of age.
Sometimes drug companies conduct studies by using pregnancy registries where pregnant women enroll when they take certain drugs, the CDC found. Then these finding are used and compared to those who did not take the medicines. “Pregnancy registries allow researchers to gather health information both during a pregnancy and after delivery. This allows us to get a clearer picture of how other health issues and life events may impact pregnancy outcomes.” Drug companies don't usually test drugs on pregnant women to see if they are safe and if it will be effective for them before it is released to the public as it puts the baby at risk. There is no or very little information on the safety of certain medications after they receive approval and after they are released to the public.
Additionally, there is no way of being certain what the negative impact would be after the introduction of a drug until years later. Acetaminophen could be just one of those drugs that have consequences for a portion of people. The best thing to do is not to take any medication when pregnant, but this is not ideal for a majority of expectant mothers. Women should consult their doctors, as the risk of having a fever for instance could be even more damaging to the pregnancy since aspirin is too dangerous.
Here is what you can do about the usage of acetaminophen, according to the CDC's website. Do not take more than one acetaminophen-containing product at one time. Take the drug exactly as directed on the prescription. Do not take more than 4,000 milligrams of acetaminophen daily and inform your doctor if you have liver disease or a history of the condition. If you have concerns don't just Google it, go to the doctor and ask questions in order to weigh the risks before any decisions are really made. You need to make the decision on what will be a good option for you. This could be using homeopathic remedies, meditation, therapy, and other low risk options used during pregnancy. Again, gather as much evidence and information needed that will help you make a decision you can live with. This goes beyond just acetaminophen--it is other medications as well. Anytime we use a medication there are risks. There are more for some people than others. The bottom line is to do your homework.