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    A link between acetaminophen and adverse neurodevelopment?



    Using acetaminophen during pregnancy may not be as risk-free as previously thought, according to a recent study in International Journal of Epidemiology of the drug’s impact on neurodevelopment.

    In a collaboration between the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the University of Oslo, and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, researchers used the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study to identify 2919 same-sex sibling pairs. They modeled externalizing and internalizing behavior problems, psychomotor development, and temperament using generalized linear progression. Variables taken into consideration included febrile illness, infections, and any co-medication use during pregnancy.

    The study authors found that children who had been exposed prenatally to acetaminophen for >28 days had poorer gross motor development (β 0.23, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.12 – 0.51), communication (β 0.20, 95% CI 0.01-0.39), externalizing behavior (β 0.28, 95% CI 0.15 – 0.42), and internalizing behavior (β 0.14, 95% CI 0.01 – 0.28), and higher activity levels (β 0.24, 95% CI 0.11 – 0.38) than those with less exposure. Children exposed prenatally to acetaminophen for 1-27 days also exhibited poorer gross motor outcomes (β 0.10, 95% CI 0.02 – 0.19), but the impact was not as severe as in children with long-term exposure. Prenatal exposure to ibuprofen did not appear to impact neurodevelopment.

    Although the study implied that acetaminophen has an impact on neurodevelopment, the researchers cautioned that it was the first to show a connection between the drug and neurodevelopment. They urged further study into the possible causal relationship between prenatal exposure to acetaminophen and adverse effects on neurodevelopment.


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    Miranda Hester
    Ms. Hester is Content Specialist with Contemporary OB/GYN and Contemporary Pediatrics.


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