If You Took Tylenol While Pregnant, You Can Add ADHD To Your Worry List

shutterstock_145779146Do you know what I hate most about pregnancy? The immense, constant, unrelenting PRESSURE. If you don’t do it perfectly, if you make one tiny misstep even with the best of intentions, your baby is not going to develop properly or something even more terrible will happen, and it will be all your fault.

Trust me—I’ve slogged through pregnancy guilt with the best of them. It doesn’t help matters that studies are constantly being released that confirm the importance of your pregnancy decisions. On the one hand, it is critical to educate women on prenatal care and pregnancy risks. On the other hand, many women now see pregnancy as a field of landmines that is almost impossible to navigate without making a terrible, fatal mistake.

So, here’s the latest research to add to your pregnancy and postpartum worry list. Pregnant women that take Tylenol may have been misinformed about the safety of acetaminophen. A new study reports that:

Children of women who took the drug during pregnancy were about 40% more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder than children of mothers who took none.

The probability of a child developing ADHD symptoms severe enough to require medication increased the most — by 63% — when his or her mother took acetaminophen during the last two trimesters of pregnancy, researchers found. It also rose by about 28% when acetaminophen was used in the third trimester alone. The added risk was smallest — about 9% — when a pregnant woman reported taking the drug only during her first trimester of pregnancy.

40% is a significant number, so this information is good to have. I personally did not take Tylenol while pregnant because I rarely ever take over-the-counter or prescription medication. However, I was not a pregnant saint. I did my research and chose to drink two glasses of wine a week while pregnant, after weighing the basically nonexistent risk—backed by research.

My point is this. No pregnant woman does everything by the book, least of all me. It’s great to have this information so that doctors may now advise pregnant women against taking Tylenol. However, pregnant women that have already taken the drug will likely be wracked with guilt. I personally am glad to be done with pregnancy for good because the pregnancy no-no list keeps getting longer every year.

(Image: Grekov’s/Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Bethany Ramos, on twitter.
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    • AP

      I thought doctors told women to take Tylenol when pregnant because Advil was unsafe for the fetus. (Source: Every pregnant woman I’ve ever talked to.)

      So…now Tylenol is dangerous too?

    • Elizabeth

      This probably sounds a bit crotchety-old-grandma of me, but this combined with the This American Life episode about how many people die from taking SLIGHTLY TOO MUCH acetaminophen makes me terrified to ever use it again.

      • Bethany Ramos

        My in-laws told us an anecdote about all of these kids dying from Tylenol OD and then were like, Bye! Um… thanks for nothing!

      • Jell

        I read about this too but acetaminophen is the only painkiller I can take. What I do is buy the regular strength pills (it’s ridiculous that this seems less marketed and harder to find than extra-strength), so that I only ever take 325mg at a time.
        The problem isn’t the drug itself, it’s the doses it’s marketed in and the way it’s dosed. A person should always take the smallest dose of a painkiller to start with and then more if there is no response. There’s just no need to take 2 extra strength pills at a time for your first dose. 1000mg at a time? No way.

    • Missy

      Please please please read the rest of that article. Specifically this part:

      “The latest study, published Monday by the journal JAMA Pediatrics, does not establish that prenatal exposure to acetaminophen caused the observed increase in diagnosed hyperactivity disorders, prescriptions for ADHD medications, or emotional problems in children reported by parents.”

      • Bethany Ramos

        Thank you – the doctor in the original article points out that he won’t discourage pregnant women from using Tylenol in small amounts.

        “For pregnant women, the study underscores that, even when a medication is billed as safe, the safest route is to take it as rarely as possible and at the lowest effective dose.”

    • Rana

      Oh Joy. My doctor told me that was all I could take, so I took it like every day for migraines. This is just lovely >:(

      • rrlo

        Think of it like this – we don’t know how debilitating headaches affect fetus’s either. You don’t know if suffering through migraines – where potentially your heart rate goes up, you vomit, you’re sweating (I don’t get migraines so I don’t know exactly what happens) – can impact your child.

      • rrlo

        Also, the study looked at 64K children. Only 550 in the acetaminophen group developed ADHD – compared to like 280 in the other group. So EVEN if the study is perfectly designed – chances of your child developing ADHD because of Tylenol is still very low.

    • robbie

      It seems the point should be that everything should be done in moderation. Somehow all of you girls that are having kids now grew up ok. We do live in a society today that puts lots of credence in medication. Go natural as much as possible, use moderation and your mom instincts. It’s all good!

      • Bethany Ramos

        Great point :)

      • rrlo

        Yes, but what is “natural” and how do we know that “natural” is not causing any problems either?

        Just because scientific rigor is not there behind many “natural” products doesn’t mean that it’s safe.

        It’s possible that a natural remedy is safe. It is also possible that is completely useless (thus safe but useless). However, It is also possible that not enough people take it – compared to acetaminophen and it is impossible to gauge what harm it can do over the long run.

    • Andy

      Things like this make me very happy to be done with pregnancy-it seems like every week a new study comes out saying that something thought to be safe in pregnancy actually has some pretty dire side effects.

      • Bethany Ramos

        WORD.

    • Rachel Sea

      Correlation is not causation. The study is NOT saying that taking Tylenol will give your kid ADHD.

      Maybe women who get headaches are more likely to have a kid with ADHD, maybe it’s people whose hips are poorly aligned, they don’t know, it’s just something that they are looking further into.

      • meah

        Thank you for explaining this to my non-science brain. I feel much better now. Sigh of relief.

    • Crusty Socks

      Adult ADHD is a serious issue. I wish people

      • Marianna

        I like you! Thanks for

      • Bethany Ramos

        This whole exchange = hahahah.

    • meah

      God Dammit! They gave me extra strength Tylenol in the hospital when I had horrible headaches from the drugs they gave me to stop early labour… in my 33rd week. This makes me feel not so great. I thought it was safe. Damn you science, ruining my day. Again!

    • Guest

      “The latest study, published Monday by the journal JAMA Pediatrics, does not establish that prenatal exposure to acetaminophen caused the observed increase in diagnosed hyperactivity disorders, prescriptions for ADHD medications, or emotional problems in children reported by parents.”
      http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-tylenol-pregnancy-adhd-risk-20140224,0,2353473.story#ixzz2uRPF3VuM

    • Larkin

      Dude, the “DON’T DO THIS OR YOUR BABY WILL DIE” list for pregnant women is getting ridiculous. This is why, at least for foodstuffs, I’m sticking with the “everything in moderation” approach. For example, having eaten lunch meat on sandwiches for years, it seems highly unlikely that it’s suddenly going to give me horrific food poisoning. At least, no more likely than getting the same food poisoning from, say, listeria-infected cantaloupe.

      • Bethany Ramos

        Totally agree!

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