Taking Tylenol while pregnant could raise likelihood of autism

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A new study in Norway has linked higher autism birth rates to expectant mothers taking Tylenol (acetaminophen).

In the study, mothers who took Tylenol while pregnant were significantly more likely to bear children with behavioral problems, poor language and motor skills, and communication difficulties – all signs of autism.

Link to developmental problems

The study used data on more than 48,000 Norwegian children whose mothers took a survey evaluating medication use at weeks 17 and 30 during pregnancy as well as six months after birth. A follow-up survey looked at the children's developmental progress at 3 years of age, the point at which most autistic children are diagnosed.

Comparing the drug intake survey data with the diagnosis data for the children, the researchers found a strong link between taking acetaminophen and children with developmental problems. About 4 percent of the women surveyed took Tylenol for at least 28 days during their pregnancy, and children born to those mothers had many more functional and behavioral problems than did those born to mothers who took less or no acetaminophen.

Risk of long-term use

"Our findings suggest that (acetaminophen) might not be as harmless as we think," stated Ragnhild Eek Brandlistuen, lead author of the study from the University of Oslo in Norway. "Long-term use of (acetaminophen) increased the risk of behavior problems by 70 percent at age three. That is considerable."

The study was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology. Other common pain drugs, like ibuprofen, were also included and did not have the same results.

 
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