Taking Tylenol While Pregnant May Increase Risk of Autism, ADHD: Study

Children born to women who took Tylenol during pregnancy have a higher risk of developing autism and ADHD, according to the finings of new research that raises further concerns about the potential side effects of acetaminophen.

In a study published last week in the European Journal of Epidemiology, researchers indicate that exposure to Tylenol during pregnancy may increase the likelihood a child will be on the autism spectrum or have symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of six European population-based cohort studies, involving a total of 73,881 mother-child pairs. Researchers focused on prenatal and postnatal use of acetaminophen up to 18 months after birth. Tylenol exposure was assessed through maternal questionnaires or interviews. Autism and ADHD symptoms were assessed at ages 4 to 12. Children were classified as having borderline/clinical symptoms at each assessment.

The data indicates children exposed to Tylenol during pregnancy were 19% more likely to have autism spectrum disorders and 21% more likely to have ADHD symptoms compared to non-exposed children.

The proportion of children having borderline or clinical symptoms ranged between 0.9 and 12.9% for autism spectrum and 1.2 and 12.2% for ADHD.

The association between Tylenol pregnancy exposure and symptoms was strong among both boys and girls, but slightly higher for boys. Additionally, postnatal exposure to acetaminophen was not linked with autism or ADHD symptoms.

Prior studies have suggested the use of Tylenol during pregnancy may increase a child’s risk of developing ADHD and autism. Children with the highest levels of acetaminophen metabolites in their blood at birth had the highest risk of the developmental disorders.

Another study published last year also pointed to a link between Tylenol use during pregnancy and increased risk of ADHD and other neurodevelopmental problems in the child. In fact, one study published last year also indicated epidurals given during child birth to numb the pain may also lead to an increased risk of the child being diagnosed with autism later.

Researchers emphasize the findings of the new study point to a possible link between taking Tylenol during pregnancy and autism and ADHD, but the study does not prove cause and effect between the two and indicates the need for further research.

“These results replicate previous work and support providing clear information to pregnant women and their partners about potential long-term risks of acetaminophen use,” wrote study authors.


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