Women who take painkillers could be increasing their baby’s odds for developing attention disorders and sleeping problems, a new study suggests.
Using data from the First Baby Study in Pennsylvania, researchers from Penn State University looked at the effects that acetaminophen — sold under the brand name Tylenol — had on the babies of women who took the drug while pregnant.
The study — published in PLOS One — found that children were around 20% more likely to have ADHD or a form of insomnia by the age of 3 if their mothers regularly used the over-the-counter medicine.
Researchers tracked 2,423 moms and babies from when the mother was pregnant until the child was three. Moms recorded their drug use and answered a prenatal stress questionnaire in their third trimester.
Of the women surveyed, 41.7% reported using acetaminophen during pregnancy. The researchers then measured the children using the seven Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) syndrome scales.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 65% of pregnant women in the US take Tylenol when they’re pregnant for aches and pains.
Researchers found that the children who mothers took acetaminophen while pregnant scored significantly higher on three of the CBCL scales: withdrawn, sleep problems and attention problems, compared to those who didn’t take it.
The FDA has said that past studies are “too limited to make any recommendations” yet about taking the medication.
“Because of this uncertainty, the use of pain medicines during pregnancy should be carefully considered,” it said.
The authors of the study said their findings “corroborate” previous studies that reported on the association between prenatal exposure to acetaminophen and attention problems later on.
They also said that because the use of acetaminophen during pregnancy is common, the results from the study are of “public health concern,” suggesting pregnant women should be cautious when taking medications containing acetaminophen.