Acetaminophen during pregnancy
According to some studies, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is now becoming increasingly common. Why this is true isn’t known; the causes and risk factors beneath ADHD are only gradually being unraveled.
Some of the increase is due to improvements in diagnosis and changes in the way in which the condition is assessed, but it seems that these factors alone can’t explain how big the growth.
Recently, some scientists have focused on acetaminophen use during pregnancy as a potential factor.
Potential links between this common OTC drug and ADHD have faced increasing scrutiny in the past few decades.
Acetaminophen and ADHD research
A Norwegian study published in 2013 found that infants whose mothers had taken acetaminophen for 28 days or longer during pregnancy had motor and cognitive deficits at 3 years of age.
In the same way, in 2014, a Danish study found connections between prenatal acetaminophen use and both a clinical ADHD analysis and ADHD symptoms in offspring at age 7.
These studies fueled further research, and a number of newspapers on the subject were printed. One of them demonstrated a connection between the use of acetaminophen during pregnancy and “ADHD-like behavior” from the offspring at the ages of seven and 11.
Although evidence is mounting, many of the prior studies had flaws. For instance, acetaminophen is suggested for pregnant women who have existing health difficulties, such as inflammatory and autoimmune disorders. These condition types themselves are linked to neurodevelopmental disorders in offspring. So it may be the underlying illness to blame, and not acetaminophen.
There are a variety of theories regarding how acetaminophen may influence ADHD results in the unborn child. The authors mention three possible pathways.
At a mouse model, maternal acetaminophen exposure increased amounts of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, resulting in changed behaviour.
Acetaminophen may interfere with maternal hormones, such as sex and thyroid hormones, that are included in fetal brain development.
Acetaminophen could potentially interrupt brain growth through oxidative stress, which leads to the death of nerves.
But for now, it’s uncertain if some, all, or none of those mechanisms are important. Much more research will be needed. However, because acetaminophen is so broadly utilized, and since ADHD is now in the spotlight, replies are certain to follow.