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Paracetamol in pregnancy raises children’s risk of attention deficit disorder, autism by 30%

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Pregnant women who take paracetamol are up to 30 per cent more likely to have children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), new research suggests.

The common painkiller, which is also known as acetaminophen, also raises children’s risk of autism by up to 20 per cent, a study found.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Study author Dr. Ilan Matok, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said: “Our findings suggest an association between prolonged acetaminophen use and an increase in the risk of autism and ADHD.”

Although it is unclear how the drug causes ADHD or autism, paracetamol has previously been linked to communication problems and reduced Intelligent Quotients (IQs) among children whose mothers took the medication while expecting. Paracetamol is the active ingredient in hundreds of over-the-counter medications, and is the first-line painkiller for pregnant women to relieve fever and discomfort.

Around 65 per cent of pregnant women in the US take the drug when expecting, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite their findings, the researchers are cautious not to worry women, and stress that pain and fever themselves can have detrimental effects on unborn children.

They add expectant mothers can take paracetamol for a short while, however, if their pain continues, women should contact their doctors.

Matok said: “While unnecessary use of any medication should be avoided in pregnancy, we believe our findings should not alter current practice and women should not avoid use of short term acetaminophen when clinically needed.”

The researchers analysed 132,738 mother-child pairs over three-to-11 years.


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