A new study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology finds that pregnant women's paracetamol intake is directly associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and autism symptoms in children. Led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), the study of more than 70,000 children in six European cohorts has linked both parameters.
The six cohorts in the study included: Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, Danish National Birth Cohort, Gene and Environment: Prospective Study on Infancy in Italy, Generation R Study, INMA, and Mother-Child Cohort in Crete.
Researchers studied 73,881 children for whom data were available on prenatal or postnatal exposure to paracetamol, showed signs of at least one symptom of ASC or ADHD and main covariates. Children exposed to paracetamol before birth were 19 per cent more likely to develop ASC symptoms and 21 per cent more likely to develop ADHD symptoms than children who were not exposed. ISGlobal researcher Silvia Alemany, lead author of the study explained, “Our findings are consistent with previous research. We also found that prenatal exposure to paracetamol affects boys and girls in a similar way, as we observed practically no differences.”
“Our results address some of the weaknesses of previous meta-analyses,” said Jordi Sunyer, researcher at ISGlobal and last author of the study. “Considering all the evidence on the use of paracetamol and neurological development, we agree with previous recommendations indicating that while paracetamol should not be suppressed in pregnant women or children, it should be used only when necessary,” they added.
Approximately 46 to 56 per cent of pregnant women in developed countries use paracetamol. It is considered the safest antipyretic for pregnant women and children. However, mounting evidence has linked prenatal paracetamol exposure to poorer cognitive performance, more behavioural problems, and ASC and ADHD symptoms.