Acetaminophen Use While Pregnant Leads to ADHD, Study Says

By Staci DaSilva |

Published 03/02 2014 03:24PM

Updated 03/02 2014 06:42PM


It's long been touted as the safe pain reliever to take while pregnant: Acetaminophen.

But a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics has brought that all into question.

Could taking acetaminophen while pregnant lead to ADHD for your child? A study out of Denmark says there's a higher risk. But one local doctor isn't buying it.

When a pregnant patient comes to Dr. Marjorie Meyer complaining of pain, she starts with non-medicinal treatments, like staying hydrated and taking naps.

Dr. Marjorie Meyer said, “If those things don't work or if you choose to use medication, we do certainly consider acetaminophen a reasonable choice.”

Dr. Meyer is the Maternal Fetal Medicine Division Director at Fletcher Allen Health Care. Her theory about acetaminophen, the main ingredient in Tylenol, is shared among many medical professionals.

It's been known as the safe option for pregnant women to treat pain and reduce fevers.

But a Danish study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics raises questions.

The preliminary study suggests children were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD when their mothers regularly took acetaminophen, especially towards the end of their pregnancies.

Kids were 13% more likely to show ADHD behavior and 37% more likely to be diagnosed with severe ADHD.

“Statistics can do funny things with facts,” said Dr. Meyer. “Women shouldn't be afraid to take acetaminophen, especially if they really need it, in an intermittent fashion."

“It's been something that we've known for a long time has been viewed as relatively safe to take in pregnancy,” said naturopathic physician Kirsten Nielsen. “But there are a lot of other options that could be beneficial without having potential risks. In naturopathic medicine, we try to look at what is the cause of what's going. Not just treating the symptoms but treating the cause."

Kirsten Nielsen is a naturopathic physician at Vermont Naturopathic Clinic in South Burlington.

Like Dr. Meyer, she suggests drinking lots of fluids and getting plenty of sleep to reduce headaches.

And if you are concerned about potential side-effects of acetaminophen, Neilsen suggests other natural treatments, such as botanical medicines, therapeutic massage, exercises like yoga and stretching and acupuncture.

"That's one of the things I would recommend for pregnant women for pain. A lot of people with different kinds of pain that can be really helpful for,” said Kirsten Nielsen, ND.

Also, hydrotherapy can help relieve pain by using hot and cold towels, off and on to reduce inflammation.

“You want to put the hot towel on for 3 minutes and then switch to the cold towel, ice cold, wring that one out and put that one on for 30 seconds and repeat,” said Dr. Nielsen.

At the end of the day, you should do what makes you feel comfortable. Always consult your doctor before taking on any new treatment methods.

It's important to note that although some think the study shows signs of risks, most women in the study who took acetaminophen did not go on to have children with ADHD.

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