Maternal use of paracetamol during pregnancy appears to be associated with an increased risk for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, autistic spectrum disorder, and hyperactivity symptoms although results should be treated with caution

In August 2018 researchers from Israel published the results of their review of the medical scientific literature to assess the risk for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and autistic spectrum disorder in the offspring of women who had taken acetaminophen (also known as paracetamol) during pregnancy. A total of 7 studies, involving 132,738 mother-child pairs with follow-up periods ranging from 3-11 years, were included in the review. Results showed that acetaminophen use during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, autistic spectrum disorder and hyperactivity symptoms. A further analysis revealed that the association between exposure and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder increased with the child’s age upon follow-up and with the average duration of exposure to acetaminophen. However, it should be noted that the studies differed widely in exposure and outcome assessment.¬† Although these findings are concerning, the results should be interpreted with caution as the available evidence consists of observational studies and is susceptible to several potential sources of bias.

Masarwa R et al. Prenatal Exposure to Acetaminophen and Risk for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Autistic Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review, Meta-Analysis, and Meta-Regression Analysis of Cohort Studies. Am J Epidemiol. 2018 Aug 1;187(8):1817-1827

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