Study Suggests Acetaminophen Exposure in Pregnancy Linked to Higher Risk of ADHD, Autism

Published Online: Wednesday, October 30th, 2019
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health and the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality have found that exposure to acetaminophen in the womb may increase a child’s risk for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
 
Data was taken from the Boston Birth Cohort, which is a long-term study of factors influencing pregnancy and child development. Umbilical cord blood samples were taken from 966 births, each being measured by the amount of acetaminophen and two of its byproducts.
 
Results showed that 25.8% of the children had been diagnosed with ADHD only, 6.6% with ASD only, and 4.2% with ADHD and ASD, by the average age of 8.9 years.
 
The samples were classified by the amount of acetaminophen and its byproducts into thirds, from lowest to highest. The middle third of exposure was associated with about 2.26 times the risk for ADHD, compared to the lowest third. Meanwhile, the highest third of exposure was associated with 2.86 times the risk.
 
The risk of ASD was higher for samples in the middle third (2.14 times) and highest third (3.62 times).
 
Researchers concluded that their results support earlier studies linking acetaminophen exposure in the womb with ADHD and ASD. However, there is a need for additional research.
 
Reference
 
NIH-funded study suggests acetaminophen exposure in pregnancy linked to higher risk of ADHD, autism [news release]. Bethesda, MD; NIH News Releases: October 30, 2019. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-funded-study-suggests-acetaminophen-exposure-pregnancy-linked-higher-risk-adhd-autism. Accessed October 30, 2019.



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