Paracetamol Use During Pregnancy Linked to ADHD in Children

A recent scientific study got me thinking – how many people would use paracetamol during pregnancy thinking it's an innocuous 'safe' drug? I know my doctor recommended I use it for pain relief while pregnant – it is the most commonly used medication for pain or fever during pregnancy.

Paracetamol use during pregnancy has now been linked to an increased risk of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.

The study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that children had a 37% higher risk of later being diagnosed with hyperkinetic disorder (a severe form of ADHD) if their mother took paracetamol while pregnant. The risk increased further when mothers used paracetamol in more than one trimester.

ADHD is a chronic condition that affects millions of children and often persists into adulthood. It includes a combination of problems, such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour. Children with ADHD also may struggle with low self-esteem, troubled relationships and poor performance in school. Symptoms sometimes lessen with age. However, some people never completely outgrow their ADHD symptoms. (Source: Mayo Clinic).

The authors studied over 64,000 children and mothers in the Denmark between 1996 and 2022 and the research was collected via surveys. More than half of the mothers participating reported using paracetamol in at least one trimester during pregnancy.

Lead author of the study says that this study should "not change practice" because further investigations are needed.

It was a drug that was taken very frequently and an outcome that was found very frequently so while the results are of public health relevance, a closer link would need to be established before pregnant mothers are cautioned to avoid paracetamol in pregnancy.

However, as with anything to do with pregnancy and the health of your baby, I would always advise to seek the advice of a trusted health care professional rather than relying on Dr Google.

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