To Your Health
October, 2022 (Vol. 16, Issue 10)
By Editorial Staff
If you're unfamiliar with acetaminophen, that's because you're accustomed to its common brand name: Tylenol. Acetaminophen is also found in a wide variety of other drugs, including NyQuil / DayQuil, Mucinex, Robitussin, Excedrin, Alka-Seltzer Plus, Benadryl and more.
In fact, a whopping 600 prescription and over-the-counter medications contain acetaminophen as an active ingredient to help reduce pain and fever.
If you're pregnant, that's a big problem because it means acetaminophen is challenging to avoid – but avoid it you should at all costs. Why? Because research links maternal acetaminophen use with compromised childhood development, particularly sleep and attention problems by preschool age.
Researchers tracked 2,400 first-time mothers from the third trimester too three years after giving birth, surveying them while pregnant regarding medication use, including acetaminophen. (Nearly 42 percent of expectant mothers reported acetaminophen use during their pregnancy.) The researchers also surveyed the mothers at six-month intervals from the first month after their child was born until the child reached three years of age, with the 36-month survey asking mothers to rate their child's neurodevelopmental and behavioral progress on a three-point scale. The goal: to determine whether any of the children displayed unusual signs of being emotionally reactive, anxious or depressed, withdrawn or aggressive, and/or experienced sleep issues.
Sleep and attention problems were significantly more common in preschoolers whose mothers reported prenatal acetaminophen use than in children whose mothers did not use acetaminophen during pregnancy: 22.7 percent (sleep problems) and 32.9 percent (attention problems) vs. 18.9 percent (sleep problems) and 28.0 percent (attention problems). Findings appear in the journal PLOS One.
If you're expecting a child (or trying to conceive), make sure you talk to your health care team about these findings and emphasize that whenever possible, you want to avoid taking acetaminophen (or any other drug, for that matter). You and your child deserve it.