A large, but mostly
preliminary, study released last night in JAMA Pediatrics seems to contradict
conventional wisdom regarding an over-the-counter pain reliever and its
safety for pregnant women. Researchers from the University of Aarhus in Denmark
looked for a link between acetaminophen and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) because they believed the
medication might act as a hormone “disruptor”- and affect fetal brain
surveyed the mothers of 64,000 children born from 1996 to 2002, and asked about
their use of painkillers during pregnancy. The study results show children
whose mothers took acetaminophen were 13 percent more likely to exhibit
So what is a mom-to-be
to do when she needs pain relief?
Hyagriv Simhan, M.D., chief of Maternal-Fetal
Medicine and vice chair for Obstetrical Services for Magee-Womens Hospital ofUPMC said pregnant women who have taken recently taken Tylenol or other
painkillers containing acetaminophen should not be overly alarmed that they have done something that would harm their baby’s development.
“I wouldn’t advise
changing clinical care solely on the basis of this one study,” said Dr. Simhan.
“There does not appear to be a convincing biological basis for why
acetaminophen would be related to ADHD.
In fact, in this study, where a little more than half of the women took
Tylenol during pregnancy, the vast majority of the babies did not develop
Dr. Simhan noted that
other pain medications and fever reducers may have effectiveness or safety
profiles that may not make them a good choice for pregnant women.
For example, a number of
research studies show ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
(NSAIDS) can disrupt fetal development.
“I’d advise women to
speak with their obstetricians before making any changes to medications,” said
Dr. Simhan. “A woman’s individual medical history needs to be considered for a
doctor to make the best recommendation.”
Other experts say the
Danish study does not prove a cause-and effect relationship between
acetaminophen use and ADHD.
“This is one area where
more research is really needed,” said Dr. Simhan.
Labels: ADHD, Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, pregnancy