Study links childhood behavioral outcomes to paracetamol use during pregnancy

Researchers at the University of Bristol tested whether taking paracetamol, a commonly used over-the-counter analgesic, during mid-pregnancy may lead to any childhood behavioral outcomes. The results appeared in Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology.

Using the Bristol’s Children of the 90s research, a large prospective cohort study, researchers probed 14,062 children, which included data on cognitive and behavioral outcomes. IQ, memory, temperament, and behavioral measures were all thoroughly examined by researchers. Among the pregnant participants, at seven months, 43 percent stated they’ve taken paracetamol occasionally during the past three months.

Up until the completion of primary school, paracetamol use was linked to hyperactivity, attention deficits and other behavioral outcomes in children, according to the findings. Those behavioral outcomes, however, were no longer present by age 10-11, or at the end of primary school.

“We have shown that paracetamol taken in the period 18‐32 weeks is associated with aspects of child attention and hyperactivity until 7 years of age, but there is little sign of adverse associations at later ages, with the exception of their sons who are more likely to demonstrate conduct problems up until 9 years of age,” the findings conclude.

“If paracetamol use in mid‐to‐late pregnancy has an adverse effect on child neurocognitive outcome, it appears to mainly relate to the pre‐school period. It is important that these results be tested using other datasets or methodologies before assuming that they are causal.”