How Big A Risk Is Acetaminophen During Pregnancy?

From NPR:

First we scan for those in critical need of attention (they aren’t all that frequent). Next we look for studies that are interesting but not essential. Finally, we ask ourselves whether articles that are iffy need some attention anyway, since other news organizations are going to run with them. We figure Shots readers would like to see our take.

One study now caught in that eddy is a report reporting behavioral problems in children born to women who took acetaminophen (popular brand name: Tylenol) during pregnancy. Evie Stergiakouli and George Davey Smith at the University of Bristol published it Monday in JAMA Pediatrics. They studied about 7,800 women and their children over the course of more than seven years.

There’s no question the study addresses an important topic. About half of all pregnant women take acetaminophen during pregnancy because it’s considered safer than other painkillers. And hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in childhood are common and potentially disruptive.

The study reports that these behavioral problems were about 20-45 percent more common among the children of women who took acetaminophen during pregnancy.

So it sounds like a pretty important finding, right?

Well, it’s not quite so simple.

On the one hand, two previous studies have shown similar results. So this finding isn’t out of the blue. One advantage of this study is it asked women –while they were pregnant — whether they took acetaminophen, so the findings weren’t as prone to faulty memories, which can be a problem in studies like this.

On the other hand, the researchers didn’t ask women how much of the drug they took, and they didn’t ask why they took it. The women who took acetaminophen were somewhat more likely to report that they smoked during their pregnancies, that they drank alcohol and that they suffered from psychiatric illness. When the …

Continue Reading