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Tylenol Use During Pregnancy May Increase Risk of Autism And ADHD Diagnosis In Children

  • Written by: Martha Garcia
  • 2 Comments

Children whose mothers used Tylenol during pregnancy may face a higher risk of developing ADHD and autism, according to the findings of a new study.

In a study published this week in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins University researchers report that children with the highest levels of acetaminophen metabolites in their cord blood at the time of birth have a higher risk of developmental disorders.

Researchers studied 996 mother-infant pairs from the Boston Birth Cohort who were enrolled at birth and followed up at the Boston Medical Center from October 1, 1998, to June 30, 2018. The Boston Birth Cohort only includes babies who were single births, were not conceived with in vitro fertilization, and were born without major birth defects

Three cord blood acetaminophen metabolites were measured in each infant umbilical cord plasma sample collected at birth.

One-quarter of children were diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), 6% were diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorder only, 4% were diagnosed with both ADHD and Autism, and 30% of children were diagnosed with other developmental disabilities. One-third of children had normal neurodevelopment with no disabilities.

All of the cord blood samples contained some detectable levels of acetaminophen metabolites. However, cord blood biomarkers and fetal exposure to acetaminophen were linked with significantly increased risk of childhood ADHD and autism.

When researchers compared the children with the highest levels of acetaminophen in the cord blood samples to those with the lowest levels, children with the highest levels were more likely to have neurodevelopment disorders. Those children were nearly three times as likely to have been diagnosed with ADHD and nearly four times as likely to have autism.

Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability characterized by problems with social interactions and communication. Children with autism often complete repetitive and restrictive behaviors. New research indicates the number of children being diagnosed with autism is increasing, with one in every 59 children now on the spectrum.

ADHD is a brain disorder that can affect daily function and can cause inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Tylenol, also known generically as acetaminophen, lingers in the system. Researchers were able to estimate maternal acetaminophen use before delivery. However, because the levels were measured at birth, it doesn’t indicate long-term exposure throughout the pregnancy. Researchers can’t say how often the mother’s took Tylenol or at what points during pregnancy.

The study did have its limitations. Researchers couldn’t distinguish whether the higher risk of developmental disabilities is from the acetaminophen use or from the reason a mother was using it to begin with. For example, if a mother was sick and had a high fever or some type of infection, which could affect the fetus.

The researchers said their study appears to corroborate previous findings by other researchers. One recent study published in January 2018 linked Tylenol use to language delays in girls.

In that study, published in European Psychiatry, girls whose mothers took more than six acetaminophen tablets were nearly six times more likely to suffer language delays, the researchers determined. Girls whose mothers urinary concentrations of acetaminophen were highest were more than 10 times more likely to suffer language delays than the urinary concentration of girls whose mothers’ concentrations were the lowest, the findings indicate.

“Our findings support previous studies regarding the association between prenatal and perinatal acetaminophen exposure and childhood neurodevelopmental risk and warrant additional investigations,” study authors wrote.

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2 comments

  1. Hykeem Reply

    My son Osearin L Davis was diagnosed with autism and Adhd in Jun 2018, He was born Sep 5 2014.
    After reading this Article, I spoke with my sons Mother. She then confirmed to me, that She was advised by Medical personnel, that it was ok for her to take Tylenol/Dayquil (for pain early on/ for a slight fever). Which she had then taken (dayquil) the day before (about 24 hours) going into labor and giving birth to him. We now believe that there was a considerable amount of Acetaminophen in his chord blood left over from the dayquil, and that is more than likely what led him to have adhd and autism. Please contact me, even if you feel we may be mistaken,
    – Father seeking answers-
    -Mother seeking closure-

  2. Ashley Reply

    My son was born 2/2008
    While pregnant with him I was advised multiple times to really Tylenol for pain. I had severe right flank pain, as well as terrible round ligament pain. Tylenol became a lifeline. My son was diagnosed severe adhd in late 2013/early 2014. It’s so hard handling him some days. We recently moved, and his new pediatrician even stated how he noticed he has “true” adhd, and that he could bring 10 kids in his office, that chances only one has real adhd. We tried everything from changing diets, therapy, even going as far as giving caffeine hoping to calm him, even for a few hours. Nothing worked. This ended up with him having constant psychiatry appointments and more medicine than any young child should have to take.

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