Fetuses Exposed To Acetaminophen during Pregnancy Are At Risk of ADHD and Autism

“The FDA urges careful consideration before using any pain-relieving medication during pregnancy.”


According to a study published Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatrist, fetal exposure to analgesic acetaminophen during pregnancy could increase the risk of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children.

The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, found that “fetal exposure to acetaminophen was associated with significantly increased risk of childhood attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder.”

Researchers examined the data from the Boston Birth Cohort from 1998 to 2018 and analyzed the factors that influence pregnancy and child development.

They said they collected umbilical cord blood from 996 births and measured the amount of acetaminophen. The mothers and their infants were followed up at the Boston Medical Center.

The researchers found that more than 25 percent of children, with an average age of 8.9, had been diagnosed with ADHD and over 6 percent diagnosed with ASD. They also found that 4.2 percent of all the children were diagnosed with both ADHD and ASD.

In addition, the study classified the amount of analgesic acetaminophen and its other byproducts in the samples from lowest to highest.

The NIH said, “Compared to the lowest third, the middle third of exposure was associated with about 2.26 times the risk for ADHD. The highest third of exposure was associated with 2.86 times the risk. Similarly, ASD risk was higher for those in the middle third (2.14 times) and highest third (3.62 times).”

ADHD is characterized by the symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsive behavior, while ASD is a type of complex developmental disorder that affects the person’s behavior, interaction and the ability to learn.

The health institute added, “The authors conclude that their results support earlier studies linking acetaminophen exposure in the womb with ADHD and ASD and underscore the need for additional research.” “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration urges careful consideration before using any pain-relieving medication during pregnancy,” advised the NIH.