Share This Post


Could acetaminophen in pregnancy affect ADHD risk?


Claudia Boyd-Barrett

posted in Pregnancy

Taking pain-relief drugs that contain acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, for a month or more during pregnancy could double the risk of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, a new study suggests.

However, short-term use of the drug in pregnancy could actually reduce ADHD risk, the same study indicated.

The new findings – which some scientists dispute – come from Norwegian research involving more than 110,000 children born between 1999 and 2009, and their parents. Moms in the study filled out questionnaires during and after pregnancy reporting on medical conditions and medication use. Fathers answered questions about medication use during the 6 months prior to their partner’s pregnancy.

Almost half of the women used acetaminophen during pregnancy. Just over 2,200 of the children were later diagnosed with ADHD.

According to the results published in the journal Pediatrics, children born to women who took acetaminophen for 29 days or more during pregnancy either consecutively or spread out over a longer period had more than double the risk of developing ADHD compared to kids born to moms who did not use acetaminophen long-term. Dads who took the drug for long periods prior to conception also saw double the risk of ADHD in their kids, the authors reported.


On the other hand, the ADHD risk for children decreased slightly when women took acetaminophen for 7 days or less during pregnancy, the study said. After more than 7 days of use, the risk of ADHD in offspring began to rise, the researchers stated.

The findings only show an association between long-term use of acetaminophen and ADHD, and don’t prove that one thing causes the other. In fact, two scientists speaking to CNN called the results into question. They said the study relies on codes in the children’s medical records that could include disorders other than ADHD. It also bases the findings on parents’ own reports of their acetaminophen use, which may not be reliable, the experts said.

In an editorial accompanying the study, Dr. Mark Wolraich said the large number of participants lends weight to the findings, but concluded that more research is needed. Many factors, including genetics, can contribute to ADHD risk, he noted.

It’s common to take acetaminophen during pregnancy for pain relief and fever reduction, and the drug has long been considered safe. However, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor before taking any medications.

Do you think doctors should be more cautious about prescribing medications during pregnancy?

Share This Post