Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy Linked to Increased Risk of Behavioral Problems in Kids

Summary: Researchers report the commonly used pain medication, acetaminophen, is associated with an increased risk of behavioral problems in offspring when taken during pregnancy.

Source: JAMA Network.

Using the common pain-relieving medication acetaminophen during pregnancy was associated with increased risk for multiple behavioral problems in children, according to an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics.

Acetaminophen is generally considered safe in pregnancy and is used by a many pregnant women for pain and fever.

Evie Stergiakouli, Ph.D., of the University of Bristol, United Kingdom, and coauthors analyzed data for 7,796 mothers enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children between 1991 and 1992 along with their children and partners. The authors examined associations between behavioral problems in children and their mothers’ prenatal and postnatal acetaminophen use, as well as acetaminophen use by their partners.

Questionnaires assessed acetaminophen use at 18 and 32 weeks during pregnancy and when children were 5 years old. Behavioral problems in children reported by mothers were assessed by questionnaire when children were 7 years old.

At 18 weeks of pregnancy, 4,415 mothers (53 percent) reported using acetaminophen and 3,381 mothers (42 percent) reported using acetaminophen at 32 weeks. There were 6,916 mothers (89 percent) and 3,454 partners (84 percent) who used acetaminophen postnatally. The study reports 5 percent of children had behavioral problems.

Study results suggest prenatal use of acetaminophen by mothers at 18 and 32 weeks of pregnancy was associated with increased risk of conduct problems and hyperactivity symptoms in children, and maternal acetaminophen use at 32 weeks of pregnancy also was associated with higher risk for emotional symptoms and total difficulties in children.

Postnatal maternal acetaminophen use and acetaminophen use by partners were not associated with behavioral problems. Because the associations were not observed in these instances, the authors suggest that this may indicate that behavioral difficulties in children might not be explained by unmeasured behavioral or social factors linked to acetaminophen use.

Image shows a pregnant woman.

Study results suggest prenatal use of acetaminophen by mothers at 18 and 32 weeks of pregnancy was associated with increased risk of conduct problems and hyperactivity symptoms in children, and maternal acetaminophen use at 32 weeks of pregnancy also was associated with higher risk for emotional symptoms and total difficulties in children. NeuroscienceNews.com image is for illustrative purposes only.

Study limitations include a lack of information on dosage or duration of acetaminophen use.

“Children exposed to acetaminophen use prenatally are at increased risk of multiple behavioral difficulties. … Our findings suggest that the association between acetaminophen use during pregnancy and offspring behavioral problems in childhood may be due to an intrauterine mechanism. Further studies are required to elucidate mechanisms behind this association as well as to test alternatives to a causal explanation. Given the widespread use of acetaminophen among pregnant women, this can have important implications on public health advice,” the authors write.

But the authors also caution: “However, the risk of not treating fever or pain during pregnancy should be carefully weighed against any potential harm of acetaminophen to the offspring.”

About this psychology research article

Funding: Drs Stergiakouli and Davey Smith work in the Medical Research Council (MRC) Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol, which is supported by the MRC and the University of Bristol (grant code, MC_UU_12013/1). Dr Thapar works in the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, which is supported by the MRC, the Wellcome Trust, and Cardiff University (grant code, 079711/Z/06/Z). The MRC and the Wellcome Trust (grant ref, 092731) and the University of Bristol provide core support for ALSPAC.

Source: Evie Stergiakouli – JAMA Network
Image Source: This NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Full open access research for “Association of Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy With Behavioral Problems in Childhood: Evidence Against Confounding” by Evie Stergiakouli, PhD; Anita Thapar, FRCPsych, PhD; and George Davey Smith, MD, DSc in JAMA Pediatrics. Published online August 15 2016 doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.1775

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
JAMA Network. “Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy Linked to Increased Risk of Behavioral Problems in Kids.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 16 August 2016.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/pregnancy-acetaminophen-behavior-4855/>.
JAMA Network. (2016, August 16). Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy Linked to Increased Risk of Behavioral Problems in Kids. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved August 16, 2016 from http://neurosciencenews.com/pregnancy-acetaminophen-behavior-4855/
JAMA Network. “Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy Linked to Increased Risk of Behavioral Problems in Kids.” http://neurosciencenews.com/pregnancy-acetaminophen-behavior-4855/ (accessed August 16, 2016).

Abstract

Association of Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy With Behavioral Problems in Childhood: Evidence Against Confounding

Importance Acetaminophen (paracetamol) is used by a large proportion of pregnant women. Research suggests that acetaminophen use in pregnancy is associated with abnormal fetal neurodevelopment. However, it is possible that this association might be confounded by unmeasured behavioral factors linked to acetaminophen use.

Objective To examine associations between offspring behavioral problems and (1) maternal prenatal acetaminophen use, (2) maternal postnatal acetaminophen use, and (3) partner’s acetaminophen use.

Design, Setting, and Participants From February 2015 to March 2016, we collected and analyzed data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), a prospective birth cohort. We studied 7796 mothers enrolled in ALSPAC between 1991 and 1992 along with their children and partners.

Exposures Acetaminophen use was assessed by questionnaire completion at 18 and 32 weeks of pregnancy and when the child was 61 months old.

Main Outcomes and Measures Maternal reports of behavioral problems using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) when the children were 7 years old. We estimated risk ratios for behavioral problems in children after prenatal, postnatal, and partner’s exposure to acetaminophen and mutually adjusted each association.

Results Maternal prenatal acetaminophen use at 18 (n = 4415; 53%) and 32 weeks of pregnancy (n = 3381; 42%) was associated with higher odds of having conduct problems (risk ratio [RR], 1.42; 95% CI, 1.25-1.62) and hyperactivity symptoms (RR, 1.31; 95% CI, 1.16-1.49), while maternal acetaminophen use at 32 weeks was also associated with higher odds of having emotional symptoms (RR, 1.29; 95% CI, 1.09-1.53) and total difficulties (RR, 1.46; 95% CI, 1.21-1.77). This was not the case for maternal postnatal (n = 6916; 89%) or partner’s (n = 3454; 84%) acetaminophen use. We found the associations between maternal prenatal acetaminophen use and all the SDQ domains unchanged even after adjusting for maternal postnatal or partner’s acetaminophen use.

Conclusions and Relevance Children exposed to acetaminophen prenatally are at increased risk of multiple behavioral difficulties, and the associations do not appear to be explained by unmeasured behavioral or social factors linked to acetaminophen use insofar as they are not observed for postnatal or partner’s acetaminophen use. Although these results could have implications for public health advice, further studies are required to replicate the findings and to understand mechanisms.

“Association of Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy With Behavioral Problems in Childhood: Evidence Against Confounding” by Evie Stergiakouli, PhD; Anita Thapar, FRCPsych, PhD; and George Davey Smith, MD, DSc in JAMA Pediatrics. Published online August 15 2016 doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.1775

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