Acetaminophen during pregnancy may increase child's risk for ADHD

(WJLA) - With very few options available to them while pregnant, women have been turning to acetaminophen options, like Tylenol, for years to relieve headaches, fever, and pain.

But a new study suggests that the drug may also be exposing unborn babies to an increased risk of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – or ADHD.

Dr. Jeff Chapa, a Cleveland Clinic obstetrician, says: "The amount of acetaminophen increased the risk for development of ADHD."

UCLA researchers studied more than 64,000 mothers and their children in the Danish National Birth Cohort from 1996 to 2002. More than half reported using acetaminophen while pregnant, and the results appeared to show a higher risk of children having ADHD behaviors at the age of seven.

"It can affect thyroid function in the fetus, and we know that the thyroid function and the levels of hormones in the fetus are important in development of the brain," explains Dr. Chapa.

But ABC’s Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser says the study did not look into why the women were taking the drug in the first place:

"If they were having some kind of medical condition that led them to take the drug, it may be that that is what is leading to the increased risk of Attention Deficit Disorder."

But both doctors agree that more studies are needed.

"The takeaway for consumers and for pregnant women is you don't want to take a medicine unless you need to -- but if you need to, this is a drug that has a long track history and I think you should be comfortable still taking it," sais Dr. Besser.