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Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor

Study Links Tylenol During Pregnancy to Behavioral Problems

You may want to pause before popping this pill.
PUBLISHED ON 08/16/2016

Consistently deemed a safe solution for your pregnancy aches and pains, Tylenol is now under scrutiny for its potential lingering effects long after baby is born. New research links acetaminophen—the generic name of the pain reliever—to behavioral problems in children.

Before you clean out your medicine cabinet, know that this is a correlational study, meaning that while data suggests pregnant women who took acetaminophen were more likely to have children with behavioral problems than those who didn’t, there’s still no hard proof that the drug is responsible.

Questionnaires evaluated the acetaminophen use of 7,796 UK women at 18 and 32 weeks of pregnancy and again when children were 5 years old. An additional questionnaire assessed child behavior at 7 years old. The findings? Compared to women who reported taking no acetaminophen at all, women who took it at 18 weeks were 31 percent more likely to report behavioral problems with their 7-year-olds, including hyperactivity. That number jumps to 46 percent for moms who took the drug at 32 weeks.

Wondering how much Tylenol you can get away with taking before potentially putting baby at risk? Unfortunately, one limitation of this study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, was that it didn’t evaluate dosage or duration of acetaminophen use.

Study authors are calling for more research, and in the meantime, imply that women shouldn’t abandon pain relievers and fever reducers altogether.

“The risk of not treating fever or pain during pregnancy should be carefully weighed against any potential harm of acetaminophen to the offspring," they write.

Talk to your doctor about any medications you take during pregnancy, and know that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) pain relievers, like Advil, Motrin and Aleve, are off-limits due to their risk of congenital heart defects and low amniotic fluid levels.