Acetaminophen, commercially known as Tylenol, is being called out as a possible causation of ADHD/Hyperactivity disorder.
Being nearly 37 weeks pregnant, this caught my attention- especially since I’ve taken approximately half a bottle during this pregnancy. As pregnant, potentially pregnant or post partum women, what are we to do with this information? A little research was in order so I took to the internet.
I found plenty of popular articles reporting that a new study reports links between Acetaminophen use and ADHD/Hyperactivity disorder, but oddly, none linked to the actual research. I found the abstract to the original research report here: Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy, Bevioral Problems and Hyper Kinetic Disorders, in JAMA Pediatrics, where the research was published. I also found on the website an editorial authored by three Phd’s and an MRCPsych, MSc: Antenatal Acetaminophen Use and Attention Deficit/hyperactivity Disorder, that further discusses methods and states that further research is needed before any recommendations for the cessation of Acetaminophen use in pregnant women.
Essentially, this is a preliminary finding that, through the beauty of the scientific process, requires further research. In science, you are trying to disprove a hypothesis, not necessarily prove it. When the research no longer refutes the hypothesis, only then can a determination begin to be assessed. One finding does not a theory make.
At this point, general consensus from health care professionals deems that the drug offers more preventative measures than proven harmful ones. High fevers and illness have definitive adverse affects on fetus’ that the use of Acetaminophen can control and abate.
Pharmacist Jason Sutton DPh, a National Director of Clinical Pharmacy out of Dallas, says:
“Though the study was large in size, with over 64,000 children, there are still a number of variables that have to be considered, such as the fact that ADHD is a heritable condition. Tylenol/Acetaminophen is still one of the safest over-the-counter pain medications available. I don’t think there is any reason to panic at this point. As a pharmacist, I would recommend, just like any other OTC medication, one should take it under the direction of a physician and/or consultation of a pharmacist. One should always try non-pharmacological ways to treat the symptoms first, but if medication is necessary, make sure to always take the recommended dose and only take it as directed and needed.”
Acetaminophen use leading to ADHD/hyperactivity disorder is a great headline for capturing interest in a media outlet, but it is irresponsible, in my unprofessional opinion, that we scare women further. It seems en vogue to scare pregnant women and to guilt trip women who look back at their pregnancies with the foresight of their children’s current behavior. There’s enough mommy guilt coursing through a mother’s brain from moment to moment with which to contend, thank you very much.
Already we are to only eat certain items, drink certain fluids, take minimal drugs, and now the one OTC medication that has been deemed safe for use during pregnancy is being professed unsafe; when the parting thought in the research abstract states: “Because the exposure and outcomes are frequent, these results are of public health relevance, but further investigations are needed.”
I had more headaches associated with this pregnancy than I did my first. I take OTC drugs sparingly as is, but there is no reason to be pregnant and have crazy headaches. In fact, when I went to the ER for uncontrollable nausea and debilitating headaches, the ER doctor almost scoffed when I told him I had only taken 500mg of Tylenol in 8 hrs. Seriously, he actually laughed at me. I just wanted to take enough to be effective.
So where does that leave us? As far as I am concerned, in exactly the same place it found us: using acetaminophen sparingly, only when needed for acute symptoms of pain and fever. I don’t know why it’s popular to alarm pregnant women and moms. Apparently it draws viewers, website hits and traffic to various media outlets. Clearly I’m writing about it so it I must deem the story worthy of attention as well. I hope though that this post will provide some resources upon which women can conduct some of their own research, and inform themselves, rather than leaving it to half-told stories created to sensationalize what is as yet a finding to be used to alter preexisting prescriptions of use.
*I am in no way a healthcare professional, so take my words as opinions. I have cited the professionals where appropriate, all other content is based merely off of my unprofessional, mommy opinion.